There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic will shape our lives for a long time to come. In particular, the way we dine out will look very different over the coming months and quite possibly for the foreseeable future. Although restaurants across the US are pushing to reopen, many are wondering how they’ll be able to run a profitable business while adhering to tough new safety requirements and severe limitation on dining capacities.
So how do restaurants stay profitable while ensuring social distancing guidelines are met? The answer could be right outside your doorstep with more and more restaurants re-evaluating the significance of their outdoor space. Let’s take a look at the latest guidelines and how outdoor heating can help you strike a balance between profitability, customer comfort and social distancing laws.
The current legislation
So what does the future look like? Although regulations differ from state to state, the national restaurant association has brought out a comprehensive COVID-19 reopening guide for the industry, detailing steps that will need to be taken to ensure a safe and secure environment for both employees and guests. Among others, these include:
“Update floor plans for redesigning seating arrangements to ensure at least six feet of separation between table setups.”
“Limit party size at tables to no more than the established “maximums approved” as recommended by CDC or approved by local and state government.”
States that have already resumed operations, like Georgia for example, can provide an idea of what the ‘new normal’ will look like. The state’s 39 virus-prompted guidelines also include instructions on restaurants to not serve more than ten patrons per 500 square feet at once and no more than six people per table. Other states like New Hampshire and Florida have taken an even more careful approach, mandating that only restaurants with outdoor dining options are able to open with tables six feet apart.
Outdoor spaces become the new indoor
For many businesses these strict “diners-per-square-feet” restrictions will have a direct implication on their bottom line, with many facing the prospect of operating at 25% capacity – a scenario that is simply not viable for long-term business survival. What’s more, recent studies have shown that people could be more susceptible to contracting the virus in enclosed spaces like restaurants, so simply placing tables six feet apart might not even be sufficient to keep customers safe. So how do you reopen, while ensuring social distancing guidelines are met, your customers are safe and you’re still able to run a profitable business?
Outdoor dining spaces offer a great opportunity for many restaurants and will help increase the level of capacity as these spaces are not only well-ventilated – and therefore safer – but can also be expanded at very low cost and with little to no structural changes. With summer around the corner and people desperate to get back to normality, some local districts are even considering shutting down entire streets in order to allow restaurants to expand their outdoor seating capacities.
Delivering an outdoor dining experience with indoor appeal
When looking at outdoor dining environments, it’s important to not neglect customer comfort. Warm summer nights are still a few months away and not a given in every locale. This is where outdoor heating solutions become extremely valuable. Outdoor heaters ensure customers are comfortable, stay longer and spend more money; ultimately helping restaurants offset their operating costs. Quickly and easily installed, they’re a cost-effective solution that turns any outdoor space into an alfresco dining experience with indoor appeal.
Already a major industry trend before the pandemic hit, well-designed outdoor dining spaces will be key once restaurants reopen, so make sure that your heaters are positioned in a way that they offer even heat distribution across both the seating and waiting spaces. Another point to consider is the nature and direction of prevailing winds. Thoughtful placement of heating in areas most susceptible to ingress of cold air, using wall-mounted, ceiling-mounted, suspended or portable heaters, create warm and welcoming spaces where people can dine and relax comfortably well into the evening.
Not quite sure where to start?
At Bromic we offer a range of high performance, electric, gas and portable heaters to help you maximize the potential of your outdoor dining space. Our design specialists are experts at designing the most suitable heating configuration to create the ideal atmosphere for your outdoor area. Contact us today to find out how we can help you turn today’s challenges into opportunities with a long-term future.
 Emerging Infectious Disease Journal Volume 26, Number 7—July 2020 https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/7/20-0764_article#comment
 ”NYC’s Restaurant Reopening Could Include Outdoor Seating On Closed Streets” https://ny.eater.com/2020/4/28/21239628/nyc-coronavirus-restaurant-reopening-plan
- On May 14, 2020