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Oct 16, 2020
3 min read
Last update: May 17, 2024

Winter is Coming: Is Your Restaurant Prepared?

Winter is coming. And along with the colder weather comes a new set of challenges for restaurant and bar owners who’ve relied heavily on outdoor dining during the warmer months. During the summer, it almost seemed like business as usual. Outdoor tables were full and restaurant goers were happily enjoying the sense of normalcy that came along with finally being able to share a good meal with friends and family. Some bars and restaurants were even able to hire back many of their staff members. According to newly released data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the restaurant industry added 104,000 workers in August and over 200,000 jobs in September.

Outdoor dining has undoubtedly been a lifeline for struggling restaurants during recent months. And although indoor dining is now permitted at reduced capacity in countless cities, many restaurant patrons are still reluctant to dine indoors.

So, with frigid temperatures on the way and the threat of a resurgence of the virus, what are restaurant owners left to do? Here are 3 things you should be doing now to gear up for winter:

Modify Your Takeout Menu Offerings

No one knows for sure what the coming winter has in store. But one thing we do know is that some people will not feel comfortable going out to eat indoors. With that in mind, savvy restaurant owners will design take out menu offerings that take the needs of their patrons into consideration. For busy families, some options are family style meals to go, children’s pizza kits, take and bake pies, or make your own sundae kits. In the event of another lockdown you may want to consider selling grocery boxes that include staples that people may have trouble finding like milk, fruit, vegetables, and bread. For couples, try offering date night meal kits for easy preparation at home, oven-ready meals, or cocktails to go.

Be Prepared to Continually Adapt to Meet the Needs of Your Customers

Before reopening with new social distancing mandates in place, restaurant owners had to adapt to new guidelines. They spaced out tables and began rethinking the way they’ve always done things in order to promote patrons and make them feel comfortable. The same strategy will be necessary to survive the winter. If you’ve been reluctant to offer online ordering, curbside pickup, delivery, or contactless drive-up pickup, your business is going to suffer. Your customers want convenience and safety, and they will expect you to have digital ordering and payment capabilities as we move into the winter months.

With so many uncertainties, you should also begin to think outside the box and plan for several different scenarios. You’ll need to be ready to adjust (and readjust) your overall strategy to best meet the needs of your customers while staying in compliance with any new guidelines or restrictions that may be put in place.

Plan for Outdoor Winter Dining

Although it may not seem like it, there are ways that restaurants and bars can continue to offer outdoor dining during the winter months. It just requires a little creative thinking. Some major cities are even looking to the public for help in coming up with innovative ways to extend the outdoor dining season to the winter months. Last month, the city of Chicago announced the Winter Dining Challenge, a design contest in which residents were asked to submit “solutions to stimulate and encourage safe outdoor dining, for both customers and restaurant/bar staff, during cold weather months”.

With a few modifications, you can continue serving patrons outdoors, even when the temperatures drop. Although some of the solutions are more expensive than others, there are several that do not require a costly investment. Here are a few examples of ways to continue outdoor dining:

  • Put up heated tents with plastic walls in your parking lot or in front of your restaurant
  • Construct private outdoor dining pods or yurts
  • Install outdoor fireplaces
  • Purchase blankets and shawls to give patrons sitting outside (the will be laundered after each guest uses them)
  • Purchase space heaters
  • Serve food that will keep people warm like soups, chilis, and stews
  • Switch to outdoor furniture that is made of wood instead of metal tables and chairs that can be very cold

Final Thoughts

While things may seem difficult now, life will eventually go back to normal and business will be booming again. Just remember, as the poet Anne Bradstreet once said, “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”

If you are a restaurant owner in need of funding to get your restaurant ready for the winter months, contact us today at (844) 284–2725 or to discuss how we can help!

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