COVID-19

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

Andy Uhler Oct 9, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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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
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

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

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Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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