Outdoor dining has been a vital component in keeping people safe and businesses running during the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic is far from over, but vaccination numbers are high, and the health consequences of catching the virus after vaccination appear to be less severe. The question on every restaurant owner and pub landlord’s lips is whether a fully vaccinated population will see an end to the outdoor dining trend.
The Rise Of Al Fresco Dining
Across the UK, local authorities have permitted seating and dining on pathways outside of establishments. Hospitality businesses have invested heavily in temporary pavement seating and permanent restaurant and pub benches, garden outdoor dining furniture and picnic benches to safely serve as many customers as possible.
Some businesses have built outdoor structures to protect customers and staff during rain or strong sunshine. Others have spent money on outdoor heaters to ensure the clients’ comfort on colder days.
Customers have embraced al fresco dining throughout the pandemic, initially because indoor dining was not permitted and then because it was summertime. However, many have since come to appreciate the mental health benefits of spending time outdoors, even when a coat and hat are required.
The Impact Of Outdoor Dining On Hospitality During COVID-19
Outdoor dining during COVID-19 has been a lifeline and bright spot for hospitality venues, including pubs and restaurants. Hospitality was one of the hardest hit sectors and according to the Office Of National Statistics, accounted for 25% of all furloughed employees. With an ease of restrictions in May 2021 allowing customers to dine outdoors only, the hospitality industry had to turn to outdoor dining to survive. This provided much-needed revenue that has let others survive and even thrive with revenue reaching £6.9 billion that month, compared to May 2020’s figures of just £1.2billion. This impacted pubs the hardest, with confusing restriction changes such as the long term closures and the “substantial meal” rule when they were able to reopen. This saw pubs venue down by 39% whereas, the hospitality average was a 25% decrease.
Although, it provide a much needed lifeline at the time, may question the longevity of outdoor dining, particularly as the weather turns colder.
Is Outdoor Dining A Long Term Solution?
Vaccination numbers are high in the UK, with almost 43 million people fully vaccinated and 91 million administered doses. While 64 percent of the population is now fully vaccinated, this does not mean that they cannot catch or spread COVID-19. However, it may offer many people peace of mind when deciding whether it is safe to dine or drink inside restaurants and bars.
The UK government has announced that the temporary pavement dining licences issued last year will be extended (until 30 September 2022) or made permanent across the nation. With licences in place, many patrons will continue to choose outdoor dining, even when the weather turns cold and wet. For the 36 percent of the population that are not fully vaccinated, outdoor service is vital.
For hospitality venues, outdoor dining will continue to have an important part to play and one that will allow them to recover from the financial fallout caused by the pandemic.