With winter weather rolling in, the restaurant industry is changing with the seasons.
Since the pandemic hit, many restaurants were forced to operate outside, but as it becomes too cold to dine outdoors, the pressure to pivot is heating up.
“I’m terrified for the winter months,” said Jennifer Jasinski, owner ofRioja, an award-winning restaurant in Denver, Colorado.
Jasinski is trying to keep her customers warm and her business open by recently pitching a tent for outdoor dining.
“I can’t control what’s happening out there,” she said speaking about the weather. “I can kind of control what’s happening in here and, you know, just do the best I can.”
Across the country, many restaurants are facing similar dining restrictions, which has cost this industry big bucks
According the to the National Restaurant Association, one in every six restaurants have closed since the COVID-19 crisis started and sales are down $200 billion compared to this time last year.
Now, there’s also some concerns about the safety of eating in “dining bubbles” during a pandemic.
“There could potentially be placement on the walls of those bubbles,” said Sheryl Zajdowicz, Ph.D., an infectious disease specialist with MSU Denver.
She says while the winter months do see more transmissions of diseases like the flu, with proper cleaning and ventilation, outdoor dining tents could provide some protection.
“In these small, individual tents or domes, where it’s just for your dinner party, you don’t have to worry about that as much,” Zajdowicz said. “And hopefully you’re familiar with the individuals with whom you are dining.”
As temperatures drop and COVID cases continue to rise across the country, restaurateurs like Jasinski are looking to survive the winter by adjusting to a changing environment and a new way of eating.
“We want to make sure people are safe and that we can stay alive,” she said. “So we can come back to cook for you another day.”