Outdoor Dining To Space Bubbles: How New York Restaurants Are Coping Post-COVID

COVID-19: New York City's restaurant business is reinventing itself to put the minds of customers at ease. Here's what they are doing.

Edited by Aditi Ahuja (with inputs from Reuters)  |  Updated: September 26, 2020 13:41 IST

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Outdoor Dining To Space Bubbles: How New York Restaurants Are Coping Post-COVID

New York's Mayor is planning to make outdoor dining a permanent option.

Highlights
  • Restaurant business in New York is being reinvented
  • The concept of outdoor dining may soon become permanent
  • A cafe in New York has created 'space bubbles' for diners

One of the hardest hit industries amid the Covid-19 pandemic has got to be the restaurant and hospitality sector. In India, restaurants were shut for months at end during the nation-wide lockdown, only to reopen to severely reduced footfall. Most diners are preferring ordering in to going out, or rather, going to eateries with outdoor dining options available. New York City is facing a similar dilemma while trying to encourage diners to visit restaurants and practice social distancing at the same time. As per reports, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is planning to make outdoor dining a permanent option for the thousands of restaurants.

New York City's 'Open Streets' program allowed restaurants to expand their outdoor dining areas options in as many as 85 car-free streets during the pandemic. "Open Restaurants was a big, bold experiment in supporting vital industry and reimagining our public space. And it worked," de Blasio said in a statement. "We're proud to extend and expand this effort to keep New York City the most vibrant city in the world. It's time for a new tradition," he added.

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The mayor's office said it would work with the city council to make the regulatory changes necessary to transform the program into a permanent option. "The program allows people and small businesses rather than cars to use our curbside lanes," said James Patchett, president of New York City Economic Development Corporation, of Open Streets. "This all means more public space for New Yorkers and a healthier, more walkable city."

As the winter months approach fast, restaurants will be allowed to use electric heaters and natural gas units with some limitations. Fully enclosed tents also are permitted, with an occupancy limit of 25% capacity. Plastic domes with adequate air ventilation also are approved for individual parties. In fact, a New York bistro has also created 'space bubbles' to help diners stay distanced while dining outdoors.

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The plastic tents can be set up in just a minute and they have become a star attraction at Café du Soleil on Manhattan's Upper West Side. "With everything going on in this world, eating in a bubble is about one of the best experiences we can have," said Valerie Worthy, as she dined with two coworkers. "They have everything safe, clean. Everything is six feet apart. Love it."

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The space bubbles originally caught the eye of Café du Soleil owner Alain Chevreux in July when he was figuring out how to stay in business. Chevreux said the his indoor seating was limited and the restaurant would not be able to earn enough to pay his chef, cooks and other staff. The plastic capsules offered a quick solution as they can easily be set up outdoors and hold up to six people. Customers ask to reserve them over the phone and it has now become a novelty factor at the restaurant. "Families love it. Kids love it. Friends who want to get together love it," Chevreux said. "It was raining a couple of weeks ago, midweek, pouring, raining. Everybody that was inside those bubbles were having a blast."

What a unique way to entice customers and gain their confidence too. We hope Indian restaurateurs too will take note and create some interesting and innovative ways to dine out and reinvent the post-COVID dining experience!

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