Food And Drinks

Eater Survey: Detroit’s Pandemic Diners Still Prefer Outdoor Seating During the Winter


As restaurants prepare for fall weather with plastic bubbles and outside heaters, Detroit guests overwhelmingly said they will still be visiting patios during the pandemic – even if it’s winter. According to a recent survey by Eater Detroit, 64 percent of respondents said they will choose an alfresco dining option this winter rather than moving indoors or switching back to take-out and delivery-only meals.

Many restaurant owners have relied on outdoor seating to make up for lost seats due to capacity constraints since the dining rooms reopened on June 8, while maintaining service that is considered slightly less risky due to the increased airflow. In the cold months between October and around May, restaurants and bars usually retreat to terrace sets. Some operators are now weighing the cost of investing in equipment such as outdoor heaters and shelters to maintain their company’s outdoor tables.

The polls conducted in early October asked readers a series of questions about their current eating habits and how they might adapt them for a time of colder weather. Winter is inevitable in Michigan, which is known to correlate with declines in local restaurant business – something that is now even more worrying given the economic and operational challenges of the pandemic. Eater also wanted to measure customer perceptions of different types of seating that are used in cold weather, such as seatings. B. geodesic domes.

According to the survey, around 27 percent of respondents said they are currently more likely to rely on snacks, roadside pickups and home-style meals than eating out during the pandemic. Meanwhile, 48 percent of respondents said they were eating in restaurants, but only in an outdoor seating area such as a patio or deck. A quarter of restaurant customers said they are ready to eat both indoors and outdoors. This suggests that the majority of guests in the Detroit area are now happy with some form of personalized service, but the majority still place great emphasis on outdoor seating.

Of those surveyed, 39 percent of customers said they would only be willing to eat with someone outside their household or capsule if they were seated in an outdoor seating area. This is in contrast to the 21 percent of respondents who said they would be willing to eat with people outside their household or pod, whether they meet inside or outside.

When it comes to winter seating, reactions have been extremely mixed. A majority of 33 percent said they prefer outdoor seating, but only in a large, open space like a pavilion with heaters and ceilings. This contrasts with the 18 percent of respondents who said they would prefer an enclosed group home like a geodesic dome or tent. Of those surveyed, only nine percent said that they would start making the transition to indoor dining due to the weather, while 13 percent said that they would only order take-away and delivery or cook at home again during the pandemic.

Overall, the figures suggest a certain hope that customers will continue to dine in person on terraces in winter. After all, Michigandans are immune to cool weather. However, a 13 percent decline in dine-in business could pose significant challenges for companies that are already around.

• Detroit: Will you be dining al fresco this winter? [ED]
• How coronavirus is affecting the food and beverage industry in Detroit [ED]
• All coronavirus coverage [ED]