Winter Could Bring an End to Outdoor Dining in 2020

September 29, 2020

According to the National Restaurant Association, during the pandemic more than 100,000 restaurants have closed either indefinitely or permanently and millions of jobs have been lost. Experts expect that the nation’s eateries will lose more than $240 million this year and warn that the worst could be yet to come. Along with takeout and curbside business, many restaurants have relied on outdoor dining to drive sales as many customers remain wary about eating inside. With winter on the horizon, however, this crucial source of revenue could soon freeze up. 

For instance, the owners of Kachka Alfresca in Portland, Oregon, increased revenue to $6,000 per day when they filled an adjacent parking lot with 30 picnic tables with individual tents. This allowed the Russian restaurant to hire back 20 additional employees and keep the business busy during the summer. On October 11th, though, Kachka Alfresca will close its outdoor dining operation in order to focus more on takeout and frozen food options. “Portland is moderate as far as temperatures go, which makes it a little bit easier, but it is so rainy that I just don’t think it will be pleasant,” said co-owner Bonnie Morales.

Meanwhile, other restaurants are investing heavily in heaters and even tents and igloos as a means to keep diners eating outside. Others are offering multi-course takeout meals so that customers can recreate the restaurant experience at home. Of course, it remains to be seen if any of these measures will be able to make up for the sales earned by summer outdoor dining. What’s more, many struggling eateries can barely afford to keep their lights on as it is, let alone pay for a new fleet of heaters. The National Restaurant Association estimates that 40 to 85 percent of operators won’t be able to survive unless they receive some sort of relief soon. 


  1. How has outdoor dining helped restaurants during the pandemic? 
  2. Do you think that restaurants should try to keep their outdoor dining operations going through the winter? Why or why not? 

Source: Tim Carman, “Outdoor Dining Has Helped Restaurants Avoid Disaster. But Winter is Coming,” The Washington Post, September 28, 2020.