NYC Weighs the Future of Outdoor Dining

NYC Weighs the Future of Outdoor Dining

New York City’s restaurants may be able to benefit from outdoor dining sales not just as a short-term COVID-19 measure, but as a long-term fixture of their business.

The New York City Council had a hearing Tuesday (Feb. 8) to get different parties’ views on the future of outdoor dining, Reuters reported.

Arguments in favor focused on the benefit to restaurants and jobs, as well as the less measurable positive impact the channel has had on outdoor life in the city. Arguments against focused on sanitation concerns, noise and parking complaints.

“This is an incredible opportunity coming to our city that came out of all the doom and gloom of the pandemic,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, told the committee, according to a New York Post report. “So, let’s get it right. We shouldn’t be so focused on what didn’t work. We should focus on what is going to work in the future.”

Similarly, New York City Department of Transportation Director of Open Restaurants Julie Schipper laid out a vision that would include space allocated for outdoor dining but that would not include the shed structures that have been built since the start of the pandemic. Instead, she said sees the space being demarcated by barriers and tents.

“This program is really being planned for a post-COVID scenario, where you can dine outside when that feels nice and comfortable, but you won’t need to be in a house on the street,” Schipper said, per an Eyewitness News report.

When available, the channel can account for a significant portion of restaurants’ sales. According to data from PYMNTS’ 2021 Restaurant Readiness Index, created in collaboration with restaurant Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company Paytronix, 12% of restaurants of both kinds’ sales come from outdoor dining orders.

Read more: QSRs’ Lagging Loyalty-Reward Investment Hurts Innovation and Sales

The restrictions that the pandemic has placed on on-premise dining have led in many cases to innovation on the part of restaurateurs, devising new dining formats that provide unique experiences to consumers.

“Restaurateurs are really nimble, and they love to be creative and experiment,” Andrew Robbins, co-founder and CEO at Paytronix, told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster in an interview last spring. “If someone has learned that they can create a Tiki bar on a Friday night in their parking lot and pack in more people than they can inside, then they’re going to be doing a Tiki bar in the parking every single Friday night. That creativity is going to stay.”

See more: Paytronix CEO Says Restaurants Are Reopening but Digital Ordering Is Here to Stay

An October report on restaurants’ outdoor dining efforts stated that 80% of restaurant customers said they are in favor of restaurants having permanent outdoor dining options.

Read more: As COVID Persists, Restaurants Reinvest in Outdoor Dining

Another report the same month noted that restaurants all over the country have been advocating to make their outdoor dining options permanent.

See more: Restaurants Push to Keep Street Dining