Many restaurants have relied on outdoor dining during the pandemic, but this option will not be favorable with winter approaching.
Many restaurants reopened following the shutdown, and although some had a busy summer, not every eatery recouped their pandemic-related losses.
Then there was the downfall of hiring across the U.S., which dipped dramatically in August and coupled with the surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant, many restaurants continue to face hardships. Customer-facing industries like the retail trade, and leisure and hospitality, were also hit hard, with bar and restaurant hiring coming to a practical standstill.
“There’s a misconception that we were doing really well, but most of our outdoor dining is only a fraction of what we have indoors,” said Nya Marshall, owner of Ivy Kitchen in Detroit, Michigan. “There’s a misconception — we look tapped because we’re full outside, but indoors we’re empty. Our revenue is still drastically down compared to pre-COVID.”
Food prices are up, and many still fear the Delta variant, which makes them less likely to eat inside this winter, CBS News reported.
“I am doing everything I can to make it work, but I don’t think outdoor dining will be as palatable in the freezing cold,” she said, adding that her revenue is down 38% compared to what it was before the pandemic.
Marshall and other restaurant owners don’t have the means to construct an insulated outdoor area for customers and fear taking another loss.
The Delta strain of COVID-19 negatively impacted indoor dining, which slowed at 78% of restaurants.
“Restaurants currently rely on outdoor dining to stay open, but the dark chill of winter is coming,” Mike Whatley, the NRA’s vice president for state affairs and advocacy, warned in a statement. “For operators depending on this revenue, every additional day they can extend their outdoor service matters. Last year, despite supply-chain issues, many restaurants were able to invest in equipment to expand and winterize their outdoor dining areas. But many restaurants weren’t able to make those investments.”
The association is calling for local officials to extend the outdoor dining period and to fund outdoor dining infrastructure.
“Expanded outdoor dining cannot replace robust consumer demand for indoor dining or Congress taking action to replenish the RRF, yet it is critically needed to help the industry sustain the winter,” Whatley said.