The global Coronavirus pandemic has been a particularly confusing time for businesses and patrons alike, with operational regulations fluctuating since March of 2020. While most US states have begun to reopen their businesses, many individual cities are maintaining restrictions in an attempt to keep cases at bay.
While restrictions have affected businesses of every kind, the dining industry has been the focal point of many oscillating restrictions. Dining industries were met with ever-changing regulations from complete closure to minimized capacities and everything in-between. One of the more common restrictions seen in cities like Austin, New York City, Seattle, to name a few, was to limit indoor seating to a minimized percent of the restaurant’s total capacity, in favor of outdoor seating set at 6 foot distances.
This inspired many restaurants to rethink their dining arrangements, make use of outdoor spaces they’d previously ignored, and in turn give US Cities a more European look for at least the summer of 2020.
But these transitions haven’t been easy, and cafe owners have needed to think creatively.
If you’re a cafe or restaurant owner looking to set up outdoor dining for the first time, here are a few helpful strategies for keeping your patrons safe from nearby traffic.
As downtown cafes work to move patrons outside, some must be creative with their sidewalks or even former parking areas. This can be challenging from a safety perspective with pedestrian or vehicle traffic close by, but European cities have been making use of small outdoor spaces for centuries. With the help of a few strategic safety barriers, US restaurants are catching on.
Pedestrian Barricades For Outdoor Dining Safety
In a pinch, there are a number of simple, impermanent barricade solutions restaurant owners can use to create barriers between their customers and nearby traffic, some of them more attractive than others. For instance simple plastic barricades are effective and inexpensive, but give the appearance of a construction zone.
Custom colors can mitigate this a bit, but this option still looks inevitably temporary.
Steel Barricades For Outdoor Dining Safety
A solution that’s just as affordable and effective, but offers more flexibility in terms of aesthetics is a simple steel barricade, just like the kind you see at outdoor festivals and concerts. While these barricades have an industrial look in their out-of-the-box state, pedestrians are used to seeing these barriers in recreational settings and events, and won’t immediately associate them with construction.
If bare steel looks too industrial for your space however, here are a few options for sprucing them up for a cafe ambiance:
- Most steel barricades can be powder coated with custom colors.
- Standard steel barricades can be concealed with barricade jackets made from heavy-duty weather resistant vinyl. One popular method for adapting steel barricades for outdoor patio settings is to simply custom print brand messaging or advertisements onto these barricade jackets. When safety barriers double as advertising space, not only are customers less aware of the industrial solution in place, they also have increased awareness of your promotions or your brand.
Event Fence Panels For Outdoor Dining Safety
Some cafes and restaurants place a higher priority on aesthetics and won’t mind spending more money for a solution to prioritize this. For these restaurants and cafes, event fence panels may be the perfect safety barrier solution.
These PVC picket fence panels give the look of a permanent picket fence, but they’re freestanding, durable, and portable. Patrons get the feeling the outdoor dining environment has been an intentional part of the dining experience all along, and isn’t solely an accommodation for the Pandemic.
Other Decorative Paneling
With outdoor dining popularizing in America and perhaps establishing a new, long term habit for American dining, this last option is growing. While PVC vinyl event fence paneling in traditional white may have formerly been the most common outdoor fence barricade option, these panels are now available in powder coated steel as well, and with modern patterns and designs to go well beyond the white-picket-fence look.
While outdoor dining and sidewalk seating may be a bit of a new concept for American cafes, it’s unfair to imply we’re ill equipped for this perhaps permanent new trend. Crowd control is a long standing industry with plenty of solutions for cafes and restaurants setting up outdoor dining, Pandemic or no pandemic. As diners move outside, crowd control barriers will keep them safe.
Richard Tiedemann is the author of the Elcoconut Bar. He studied at New York University and helps readers learn the, They hone their skills, and find their unique voice so they can stand out from the crowd.