November 12, 2020

A Closer Look at Outdoor Dining in the COVID era

Outdoor dining trends continue to spike as restaurants shift to accommodate patrons

Restaurants have seen their fair share of challenges throughout 2020, having faced temporary closures and restrictions due to the impact of COVID-19. The pandemic has forced the industry to get creative with many restauranteurs shifting their customer focus to adding, or expanding upon, their outdoor dining options. This strategy has allowed many to retain employees and keep their operations afloat. The shift also comes as people increasingly seek alternatives to social settings that allow them to enjoy dining experiences while helping to sustain businesses in their communities.   

Even with limited space, restaurants have managed to create systems that work best for the larger than normal spikes in visits during peak dining hours. Some have timed dining experiences to accommodate lines of customers while staying in compliance with capacity guidelines. Others have taken advantage of unused space, going as far as setting up in parking lots with outdoor furnitureWe have tracked these growing trends through increasing quotes on corresponding products listed on AQ. Notably, these changes correlate with the timeline of restrictions being lifted around the country, with a surge in quoting volume taking place between May and June. 

Outdoor Dining By the Numbers 

AQ has unique insight into quoting and pricing trends of equipment. We recently presented data through the end of Q3 to the U.S. and U.K. markets sharing this information.

As expected, summer months saw a spike in demand for seating options under our outdoor chair categories alongside heightened interest in outdoor grills. Quoting specific types of items depends on what the outdoor spaces could specifically adapt for, whether it be additional chairs for patio furniture or bar stools for available high-top seating. While some cities have since moved into later phases of reopening, others have halted or even rolled back programs that would allow higher occupancy indoors.   

Most of us probably associate outdoor dining with summer, but in the South and other areas with milder fall and winter climates, it is just heating up. So, we expect that quoting trends to potentially sustain for equipment and supplies in these product categories, particularly in those areas where outdoor dining isn't tied to a season.

As we begin to move into colder weather patterns in other parts of the country, restaurants will need to accommodate customers with comfortable al fresco options to maintain patronage amidst shifting regulationsSome restaurants have gotten creative and themed “bring your own blanket” events and there's been an increased interest in outdoor “Igloo” bubbles to stay warm.  The city of Chicago even held a contest for its residents to design ideas for operators to accommodate outdoor dining as winter approaches.

Many are already taking measures to stay ahead of these predictions with early orders of heating equipment blowing past other categories between July and September. The skyrocketing increase in quoting volume for patio heaters under our Outdoor Cooking/Dining category comes just in time as markets approach cold fronts and northern states prepare for prolonged low temperatures.


While recent spikes in COVID cases will most likely affect the restaurant industry, continued product innovation and creativity will be key to weathering the pandemic. AQ subscribers have access to hundreds of products and PPE listed on AQ to support their customers who may be shifting their in-dining strategy. We have featured several products below, and more can be found on the AQ platform.

Omcan USA 43595 Patio Heater

Product Spec: (PH-CN-0014) Patio Heater, 87.5"H, propane or butane fuel, push button ignition, anti-tip mechanism, includes 16" dia. stainless steel table, can accommodate 20-30 lb tank (not included), stainless steel construction, wheels, heating range up to 20 ft, 41,000 BTU (shipped on pallet in 2 boxes)

Flash Furniture CO-35SQ-03CHR4-GD-GG Patio Table Set

Product Spec: Patio Table Set, includes (1) table: 35-1/2"W x 35-1/2"D x 28-3/4"H, square, rain flower design top, 1-3/4" dia. umbrella hole, 1" edge, (4) stacking arm chairs: round back, rain flower design back and seat, 1.2mm tubular frame, 300 lb. weight capacity, stacks up to 8 chairs high, plastic floor glides, designed for indoor/outdoor use, steel, powder coat finish, gold (assembly required) (shipped in 2 boxes) (in stock items usually ship within 24 hours)

TableCraft Products 1073BK

food basket

Product Spec: A La Carte Platter Basket, 9-1/4" x 6" x 1-1/2", oval, heat resistant up to 150°F/65°C, heat lamp/dishwasher/microwave safe, polypropylene, black, Made in USA (must be purchased in multiples of 36 each)

Tuuci BMFF8.5HEX

Product Spec: Bay Master Classic Parasol, 8-1/2 ft., hexagon top, 1-1/2" dia. mast, market style canopy, single wind vent, fiberflex strut design, silver delrin hub system, manual lift with stainless steel pin, stainless steel acorn finial, satin anodized silver frame finish

Related Links: State of the FES Industry: A Data-Driven View

Alex Cruz - Communications Specialist

Alex is a Communications Specialist at Revalize, AQ's parent company. Her focus is on delivering innovative content to our clients through our digital platforms. She brings with her years of experience in various B2B industries that enable her to provide a fresh perspective to our customers.

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