The coronavirus pandemic pushed the pop-up patio concept to new realms this year, as restaurants across the U.S. set up makeshift outdoor dining spaces using temporary fencing, plastic bubbles, yurts, and plywood domes – in combination with things like curtains, space heaters, and bring-your-own-blanket policies to make spaces tolerable in winter weather.
But such measures can be expensive for restaurateurs who are already facing hardship from closures and capacity limits. Then there is the safety aspect – not only ensuring outdoor dining areas are COVID-safer, but also not traffic hazards. Installing a permanent indoor-outdoor dining solution would alleviate some of those challenges by providing fresh air, extra seating, and an enhanced atmosphere year-round – which helps draw diners and boost revenue.
Temporary outdoor dining structures can be costly and potentially unsafe. Jay Coldren, managing director for national hospitality strategy and design firm Eat + Drink Studio at Streetsense, says proprietors are paying between $1,500 and $5,000 for a single four-top tent. A volunteer group called the Storefront Safety Council reported more than 20 vehicles crashing into outdoor dining areas since pop-up patios began appearing on a wide scale in 2020, up from the previous average of 4-5 vehicles per year.
Given the safety concerns and costs of temporary outdoor areas, many restaurant owners are employing a long-term solution: large sliding glass doors that open entire walls of their buildings to the outdoors.