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COVID-19

Restaurants in colder areas face new challenges in outdoor dining as winter approaches

Andy Uhler Oct 9, 2020
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Those in colder areas will either have to find a heating solution or could be forced to shut down. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Restaurants in colder areas face new challenges in outdoor dining as winter approaches

Andy Uhler Oct 9, 2020
Heard on:
Those in colder areas will either have to find a heating solution or could be forced to shut down. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Outdoor dining has been a lifeline for many restaurants during the pandemic. But a new report from Goldman Sachs estimates that winter weather will reduce consumer spending at restaurants by 3%-4%, which means some restaurants may need to rethink things. And whether that’s an investment in retrofitting an outdoor dining space or buying heaters, it all costs money.

Sam Glynn owns Chomp Kitchen and Drinks in Warren, Rhode Island. It’s been sunny and warm there lately, but not for long.

“Starting next week, we’re actually putting a 20-by-50 tent over our biergarten that will be heated with a tent heater, to hopefully buy us a couple more months,” Glynn said.

He’ll rent the tent for about $7,000 a month, and he’s paying for it with some help from the local government that offered grants to restaurants to weatherproof for the winter. 

Mike Whatley, vice president of state and local affairs at the National Restaurant Association, said Glynn is lucky to find anything.

“In certain markets, finding heat lamps for outdoors is as difficult now as finding toilet paper was for consumers in March,” he said.

And even if restaurant owners can find heaters, they will also have to pay for the propane. Whatley said across the country, outdoor dining is making up roughly half of all of restaurant sales. So when winter hits, he said those in colder areas will either have to find a heating solution or could be forced to shut down.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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