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Outdoor dining: a pandemic lifeline for restaurants

Jan. 15, 2022
3 min read
Outdoor dining: a pandemic lifeline for restaurants
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When the world started to lock down in March 2020, the only thing that was certain was the uncertainty of how COVID-19 would impact everything from daily life to work and travel.

Businesses like restaurants had to adapt quickly to changing COVID-19 regulations to operate safely while trying to remain sustainable.

And dining is a big part of the travel experience for many people.

Related: Dining out, taking out and ordering in: These are the best cards for foodies

From simple tents to elaborate custom-built outdoor enclosures, restaurants got creative and added a unique layer to the experience.

Now, nearly two years later, outdoor dining is top of mind with the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant, and it's a way to keep restaurants operating.

Outdoor dining evolution

Early into the pandemic, restaurants pivoted to takeout food only and had to figure out a way to address how to serve customers when indoor dining was prohibited.

Restaurants turned to converting spaces around their locations. Some set up tents and covered areas, while others carved out spaces that stretched into the street and built plastic igloos and greenhouse structures to create open-air dining rooms.

These innovative dining experiences also provided a crucial lifeline to restaurants.

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“In the first two months of the pandemic, we were down 85 percent in sales. And in the restaurant business, if you're down 15 percent, you are borderline closing already,” said Raymond Mangune, managing partner at Gerry’s Grill in Artesia, California.

Mangune said when they established an outdoor dining area right outside the Filipino restaurant’s Southern California location, they were able to cut down on unmanned overhead.

Alfresco dining at Gerry’s Grill in Artesia, California, provides diners with a unique experience. (Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

“We've actually been profitable because of the size of our outdoor area,” he said.

However, the reaction to expanded outdoor dining hasn't been all positive due to accessibility issues and building code concerns facing restaurant owners. But for most restaurateurs, outdoor dining during the pandemic has also influenced the way diners and cities think about these open-air spaces.

“Because people have gotten used to seeing these structures in place, it's really changed many urban centers. They're walkable. It's a lot more European style alfresco dining,” said Rodney Salinas, national director for food solutions at Hungry, a national food-tech platform. “As Americans, we love our cars. And the idea of taking away a parking space so that you can accommodate tables for people to eat was almost unheard of until the pandemic. When the pandemic hit, everybody all of a sudden had much more open minds to try to figure out how we can still live our lives, but at the same time stay safe.”

The outdoor space at Gerry's Grill offers can accommodate more people than indoors, which seats about 180. In addition, it provided a way to offer live entertainment.

“It'll never be enough to do just takeout,” said Mangune. Any business that has a dining room definitely needs to set up an outdoor space to survive, he added.

In mid-December, Mangune shifted back to indoor dining following a city decision to discontinue the temporary outdoor dining areas.

The pandemic has taught restaurant owners some lessons on how to survive beyond just offering takeout service. “I would say always be ready to evolve and always look at different angles of how you're going to keep your business alive,” he said.

Featured image by (Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023