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Restaurants get creative to keep diners warm outdoors

People enjoy alfresco dining amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Manhattan, New York, the United States, September 14, 2020.

Jeenah Moon | Reuters

Ice huts, yurts and tents have grown in popularity in recent years as restaurateurs sought to extend the life of their outdoor patios.

This year, the popularity of such structures is booming, thanks to capacity limits limiting the number of diners in restaurants.

the Coronavirus pandemic forced restaurateurs to be creative in keeping their businesses afloat. Florida is one of the few states that have allowed bars and restaurants to return to full capacity, but the overwhelming majority of restaurants are still looking to attract as many customers as possible while respecting social distancing measures. Some operators have responded to the expansion of alfresco dining with configurations meant to reflect the aesthetics of their indoor dining areas.

But having customers sit outside also means taking the weather into account. Heavy rains in the summer in New York City reduced restaurant visits by 14%, according to a recent study of restaurant attendance and weather trends from Foursquare and AccuWeather. The season, city and type of cuisine can also influence weather conditions which can affect a restaurant’s traffic patterns.

“We see, in all fields, wherever you are, whatever your state, people are coming out in the fall,” said Bill McGarry, senior vice president of ad sales at AccuWeather. “Whereas in the winter in New York you see when it’s really cold, no one goes out.”

Some restaurateurs are trying to turn the tide with comfortable, heated outdoor facilities. But others choose to go into hibernation rather than investing more money in outdoor dining. Fiberglass igloos, for example, cost $ 1,000 a pop.

Here are some solutions restaurants across the country are trying:

A16 in Oakland, California

Outdoor parklet A16

Source: A16

Italian restaurant A16 has set up outdoor tents suspended from a wooden frame to keep customers warm. Co-owner Shelley Lindgren said the restaurant plans to put a roof over the park and install heat lamps. Its San Francisco location, which tends to be cooler at night, already has heat lamps.

Coconut Club in Washington, DC

The Coconut Club greenhouse

Source: Coconut Club

The island-inspired restaurant has erected a greenhouse outside with an electric heater to help keep patrons warm. A pop-up tent is cheap and shatters easily, while wedding tents are expensive and aren’t meant to stay outside for that long, co-owner Emily Cipes tell the Washingtonian. So the restaurant chose a 33-foot commercial greenhouse instead.

Café du Soleil in New York

Outdoor dining bubbles at Café du Soleil

Will Feuer, CNBC

Patrons sitting outside the French restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side occupy plastic bubbles that also encompass chairs and tables.

Owner Alain Chevreux told the New York Times that he bought 16 structures online in July. According to him, the internal temperature of a bubble is about ten degrees warmer.

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