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Old Posted May 12, 2022, 7:30 PM
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Restaurants’ patios now a big part of their business equation after COVID shifted dining outdoors — permanently

This spring has brought record-high temperatures to San Antonio, a scorching climactic occurrence that, in years past, would have sent restaurant customers scurrying indoors into the icy embrace of air conditioning. But so far, restaurateurs across the city are finding their patio seating in far higher demand than ever.

Before the pandemic, patios were seen as a nice bonus option that might draw some business for a few months out of the year. But when there were strict occupancy limits for indoor dining rooms and customers were feeling more comfortable eating outdoors than inside, restaurant owners added patios or started beefing up the ones they had with more tables and better cooling and heating systems.

Maybe it’s a case of if you build it, they will come, but now you can find diners parked at an outdoor table at nearly any date on the calendar, and owners see patio dining as a permanent, year-round part of their business.

That’s led owners to invest even more heavily in improvements for their al fresco spots, and if you’re a property owner, good luck leasing it to a restaurateur if there isn’t some kind of outdoor space available.


The boom in outdoor dining has led to a few unexpected operational challenges. At The Hayden, Lampinstein now spends more than twice what he used to on ice. His one ice maker struggles to keep up with demand as margaritas and glasses of water sweat away outside, so he’s having to buy supplemental ice from a supplier and may soon add a second ice maker to keep up.

For restaurateur Dady, just making sure everyone has a seat has proven difficult on some days.

“The trickiest part of it is managing the reservations,” Dady said. “On a busy Saturday, we might have 200 reservations on the patio And if it rains, we don’t have anywhere to seat you inside because all those tables are booked as well. It’s important to have very good communication with customers about their reservations.”
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