Creating a Safe Outdoor Dining Experience This Winter

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a serious threat to the bar and restaurant industry. Normally a hub of social interaction, these businesses have had to shut their doors and adopt creative solutions to keep their staff and customers safe. Curbside pick-up, delivery, and outdoor seating have become the norm for the dining industry during the pandemic. But, the approach of winter makes dining outside a challenge. How can bars and restaurants create an outdoor dining experience that works during the coldest months of the year?
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Safety Recommendations

First and foremost, eateries need to ensure they are maintaining an environment that is as safe as possible. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as local regulations, serve as an important point of reference for restaurants and bars.

  • Social distancing. However a restaurant or bar is able to operate, inside dining or outside, social distancing is an important safety measure. Tables should have at least six feet of space between them.
  • Limited capacity. Social distancing can also be supported by limiting capacity. Smaller groups of people are easier to adequately space out within a restaurant or on its patio.
  • Masking. The CDC recommends the employees of bars and restaurants wear facemasks and recommends customers wear masks when they are not eating or drinking.
  • Outdoor seating. Adequate ventilation and air flow help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, which makes outdoor seating a safer option.

Outdoor Challenges

While eating and drinking outdoors was an easy solution in the balmy months of summer, winter brings a new set of challenges.

  • Temperature. In areas with mild winters, customers might be able to wear a few extra layers and still enjoy outdoor seating. In other areas with harsher winters, restaurants are faced with the question of creating an outdoor environment warm enough to attract customers.
  • Layout. Outdoor tents may be a potential option for restaurants, but the same considerations for safe dining apply. Does the tent allow for adequate ventilation? Can tables be placed far enough apart within the tent? Enclosed tents with poor air flow and large groups are likely not a safe solution.

Outdoor Solutions

What potential solutions do restaurants have to chilly weather and layout concerns?

  • Heaters. Many restaurants and bars are adding heaters to their outdoor spaces in an effort to create a warm enough environment. Some businesses are offering blankets or suggesting customers bring their own.
  • Physical barriers. In addition to temperature control, restaurants and bars need to keep in mind proper distancing protocols. Physical barriers can be installed in outdoor spaces to divide the airspace and maintain separate, safe areas for customers. For example, Sneeze Buddy™ Social Distance Separation Panels can be used to create separate dining enclosures outdoors. Freestanding modular frames or clear or suspended panels from above with chain or cables allow restaurants to configure the panels in whatever way works best for their outdoor space.

Thermal insulated curtains can serve as a multipurpose solution: creating both separate spaces and helping to maintain a warmer temperature for customers sitting outside.

Learn more about how AmCraft’s Sneeze Buddy™ panels and insulated curtains can help the food service industry weather the winter season.