There’s no getting around the fact that the hospitality and restaurant business is taking a hard hit with the pandemic. Having outdoor seating was a saving grace for many establishments during the warmer weather, but what’s going to happen now that the weather is turning colder? Debbie Lazaga takes a closer look at what, if anything, can be done.
Winter is right around the corner but with the pandemic going on, people just don’t feel comfortable about going into restaurants. In the summer we had patio seating which was lovely, but with the colder weather, what’s an establishment to do to stay afloat?
“The problem is this is a new virus, and the science is not particularly conclusive on any of these things, and all of these things are expensive,” says editor at Restaurant Business Magazine, Heather Lalley.
She says it’s a really stressful thing for restaurant owners to invest their already limited resources into something that may or may not pan out.
“When we look at this issue as a whole, it really breaks down into two separate parts. You have ways to potentially make your indoor dining experience safer, and then ways to make your outdoor dining more hospitable as long as possible.”
So creativity is going to be extra important this year. Menu items changing up to be more like comfort food, for example, adding heaters and blankets and warmer seating in the patio areas and wind breaking tents… but if people want to do take out, there are ways to make it more interesting.
Lalley says, “There’s this great restaurant owner in Seattle named Eric Rivera and he has done some incredibly creative experiential dining things that people can take home. He’s done like an Oregon Trail-themed dinner., he’s now selling spices and things all around the country. He’s basically said, ‘If I have go around selling food out of the back of my car to keep this restaurant in business, I will do that.”
And it’s going to take that type of creativity to keep some people afloat.
Co owner of Von Trier, Mark Zierath says they’re making changes to their property too.
“Our beer garden is kind of unique. It’s really like a triangle, so what we’re trying to do is basically put a canopy-type tent over the beer garden. Build an A-Frame, put a roof over it, and then we’d be able to heat it.”
Obviously pushing the “outdoor” season out as long as possible is only going to do so much. Adjustments to the way restaurants and bars operate is one thing but that wont take care of everything.
“Well, both the NRA (National Restaurant Association), WRA (Wisconsin Restaurant Association), the Tavern League, everyone, they’re all pushing for anything and everything we can get,” says Zierath.
Eventually there’s the hope that everything will get back to normal.
Zierath says, “And I would say, don’t be afraid of coming in. People, ya just gotta get out at some point. Everyone’s gotta start living their lives again.”