The unexpected rise of al fresco dining and how it is helping to keep the global hospitality industry afloat

Friday 5 February 2021, 12:43PM
By Adam Jay

Dining outdoors has always been a popular way to enjoy an evening out with friends. A meal and a few drinks on a mild summer evening has long been a staple of big city life. But now, what was once a seasonal trend has become a lifeline for hospitality businesses around the world.


It would be an understatement to say, the past year has been tough for bar and restaurant owners.  But as we learnt more about the virus, it was revealed that transmission decreased drastically outdoors. This has led governments around the world to encourage outdoor dining in a push to keep these businesses (and their employees) afloat.


Today, California lifted their ban on outdoor dining while still remaining in a strict lockdown, clearly demonstrating the importance of keeping the hospitality sector operational. Lawmakers around the world are frantically looking for ways to keep their economy’s going, without risking public health. Outdoor dining has proven to be this golden ticket.


This push to eat outdoors has come with challenges. In summer the weather is more predictable, and temperatures make for a comfortable outdoor experience. But year-round outdoor dining requires restaurants to change their outdoor spaces – this comes at an expense.


Some countries have chosen to supplement this expense. Recently, Germany launched a subsidy for outdoor heaters, allowing bars and restaurants to create a more comfortable experience for patrons. Similarly, the state of Arizona has recently launched a 4 million dollar program to assist restaurants in creating outdoor dining space.


Whether assisted by the government or not, restaurants should still prepare their business to be multi-seasonal friendly. According to a study by Study Hall Research, weather is the most important consideration when patrons consider outdoor dining. Using awnings, screens and a quality infrared outdoor heating solution, bar and restaurant owners can create a space which provides respite from even the harshest winter weather.


This investment won’t just pay off in a pandemic, but it can also encourage greater patronage in a post-COVID future. A study by the Simons Advisory Group found that creating a comfortable outdoor dining area can boost revenue by up to 35%. Planning for today’s restrictions can truely lead to greater revenue, down the road.


The pandemic has changed the way we do many things. But what it has illustrated, in the case of alfresco dining, is the need to fashion a “new normal” and make it easy for people to embrace it.  Bars and restaurants across the globe have been working to remove the hurdles of winter dining. They have successfully altered customers behaviour and managed to generate business in traditionally slow winter months (while keeping patrons safe). This has kept the hospitality industry afloat and saved millions of jobs in cities across the globe.

Who would of thought those after work  outdoor cocktails could save the world?