What will outdoor dining look like as the temps get colder?

Outdoor dining took on a new meaning during the pandemic. Restaurants across the country did whatever they could to beef up existing dining patios or create new ones under building overhangs or on empty sidewalks—all in an attempt to still provide delicious food while catering to diners’ health and safety concerns.

Now that Baton Rouge is starting to see some chilly nighttime temps and lingering cold morning air for that early coffee shop run, the question is: How do those outdoor dining spaces we relied on this summer transition for winter?

In major cities with much colder climates, restaurants are constructing what look like popup cabins on the curbside, complete with walls and space heaters. But for those cities, the more shelter you create, the more you have to adhere to the same rules as a four-walled restaurant. And some of these cramped, makeshift dining spaces bring up the same questions about ventilation as their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

According to the National Restaurant Association, while 74% of full-service restaurants currently provide some sort of outdoor dining option, about 49% are expecting to continue that option into the winter months.

The association suggests city leaders need to step up to help restaurants during the chilly season, offering incentives like tax credits toward outdoor dining equipment or eased permits. It also suggests restaurants bring in more heaters, maybe add a fire pit or two, and beef up the warm beverages and cocktail menu.

Hot toddies, anyone?

Read on for the full report from the National Restaurant Association.