COVID-19 + Cold Weather Have Great Impact on Restaurant Business


Juliana R.

Local restaurants such as Sfizi in Falls Church have been suffereing due to the cold weather, keeping customers from eating outdoors.

Winter weather is much different than it was in the spring and summer when restaurants first started opening after quarantine. With more wind, more rain, and colder temperatures, outdoor seating becomes less viable, which will likely cause business to decline.

The CDC has revisited the topic of restaurant dining many times since the spring. They still say that getting take-out or going through a drive-through is the best and lowest risk way to support local businesses and enjoy food from restaurants. This advice has caused some restaurants, including local Italian restaurant Sfizi, to rethink the way they do business.

“So the food we serve here and the product we have are mainly oriented to serve in-house,” said a waiter at Sfizi. “But since everyone has moved to online, we launched a food home menu. We launched to-go orders and carry-out, so we changed all [of] this.”

For those who actually want to eat in a restaurant, the CDC gives many recommendations and guidelines. They are clear that it is much more likely for people who have eaten out to test positive for COVID, but if you choose to do so, they say to try to eat outdoors rather than inside, make sure tables are spaced six feet apart, and that waiters are wearing masks. Restaurants throughout the country are trying to come up with creative solutions to meet the guidelines and stay in business.

“What if restaurants in big cities partner with empty office buildings? Or take over parking lots and hang trays on car doors like a ‘50s drive-in?” suggested Joe Mellia, a restaurant manager at a hotel in Boston in an interview for WBURs radio segment “Yurts, Igloos, Blankets And More — Restaurants Prepare For COVID-Safe Winter Dining.”

He went on to list all kinds of measures restaurants are taking. They have invested in transparent “igloos” for outdoor diners, as well as heat lamps and extra clothing for outdoor waitstaff. Some restaurants, however, acknowledge these expenses will not pay off.

Smaller restaurants, like Sfizi, are doing their best with their available space. “We have full dining, we have tables separated, we have separation of air, [and] doors are open,” the Sfizi waiter explained. “Plus, we are going to have heaters outside.”

“Improving ventilation and air quality is key to making indoor dining safe,” John Allen, a restaurant owner in Charlottesville, Virginia, said. “Open as many doors and windows as possible. Increasing clean airflow is possibly the most important method to reduce COVID-19 infection in businesses and restaurants.”

Some restaurants have decided on more extreme measures, however. They are choosing to “hibernate” for the winter.  Boston Magazine’s article “Not closed, not quite open: These local restaurants are hibernating for the winter” describes the scenario.

“[Hibernating] entails temporarily closing a restaurant with the hope of reopening when the weather is warmer, and the world is safer,” reported journalist Erin Kuschner in the article.

The weather will keep getting colder this winter, and it will become harder and harder for restaurants to stay in business. Help keep your favorite restaurants open throughout the winter by wearing some UGGs and a winter coat to eat outdoors, or get a take-out order every once in a while.