Losing Outdoor Dining As Winter Approaches May Create More Challenges For Restaurants

"My fear is that, come next spring, the restaurant scene could look a lot different and there may be fewer of us around," said Tony Bronson, director of business development for Grandma's Restaurant Company.

DULUTH, Minn. – Colder weather has already started showing up in the Northland, leading many restaurants to think about the challenges they face this coming winter.

One major concern is outdoor dining no longer being an option for them as temperatures drop.

This dining option has been a big advantage for many Northland restaurants and has helped them get through the struggles brought on by the pandemic.

“In years past, outdoor dining has been kind of the gravy, but this summer it has proved to be the meal,” said Tony Bronson, director of business development for Grandma’s Restaurant Company.

As winter gets closer, outdoor dining may be limited and this could lead to more challenges.

“This winter is going to be very difficult for a lot of local restaurants. My fear is that, come next spring, the restaurant scene could look a lot different and there may be fewer of us around,” said Bronson.

While the fear holds strong across the restaurant industry in the area, some businesses are already getting prepared with new innovations for the winter.

OMC Smokehouse in Lincoln Park has installed new booths with plexiglass dividers to help people feel more comfortable about dining indoors.

“It’s our obligation. If they want to come out into the community, we need to make sure it is sanitary and safe. It’s our livelihood. Every day we come to fight to stay in business,” said Managing Partner Jeff Petcoff.

Staying in business may have proven to be much more difficult for many restaurants, but the managing partner for OMC Smokehouse says it’s about learning how to adapt.

“The restaurant business is evolutionary, not revolutionary. We have to continue to evolve into different things. We just become creative with maneuvering things. We have invested a lot of money restructuring we think the new normal is going to be,” said Petcoff.

Customers may also have to learn to adjust to the new rules and surroundings.

Their willingness to keep showing up could be critical to the survival of many local restaurants.

Both Bronson and Petcoff agree some big ways patrons can continue helping restaurants is by ordering take out and purchasing gift cards to these businesses through these challenging times.

Restrictions for restaurants in Minnesota have been slightly loosened.

Indoor dining can now be operated at 50% capacity, which some restaurant owners say that still may not be enough for them to stay open.


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