Bearing cold-weather dining in a pandemic

So far, the warmer weather has been a savior for restaurants and bars, opening up patio possibilities and outdoor seating to keep them afloat. Some restaurants were able to extend services into the street, and others have set up tents. But most importantly, they’ve made it work. 55% of operators have stayed open in some fashion (takeout only, outdoor patio, delivery, dine-in, etc.) since the start of the pandemic.¹

But now, as colder weather begins to set in and cases are rising, operators must once again adapt and make difficult choices. 53% of operators are worried, but fairly confident their operation can get through in one piece.¹

Survival instincts will inevitably take over, regardless of the economy or government restrictions. Here are some ways operators are making the necessary sacrifices to stay open for business throughout the winter.

  • Extend the life of your outdoor spacing. Some operators have invested in heat lamps, blankets and portable heaters. Others, particularly in colder areas, went as far as constructing individual geodesic domes like this one: https://gardenigloousa.com. Whatever your limitations, think outside the restaurant — or consider hiring a contractor for ideas.
  • Bring more people inside. You can’t control the evolving capacity restrictions set on your restaurant or pizzeria, but you can control how comfortable and safe your customers feel once inside. Take advantage of the free tools available in our Building Patron Confidence toolkit to proactively communicate the precautions you are taking to keep your customers and staff safe. Additionally, consider partitions or a cluster arrangement design that feel more intentional, not permanent. Assume the pandemic will be going on longer and plan for the long term.
  • Rethink your takeout offerings. Family-style meal kits are one way for you to give customers an easy, interactive experience with your restaurant. Grande’s DIY Cannoli Kit is an easy way to experiment with a hands-on kit for your customers to try at home, while also bringing in more dessert orders. Or if you’re known for pizza and alcohol, think about adding pastries or high quality coffee to create a morning destination.
  • Consider curbside pickup (if you have not implemented it yet). Many operators claim curbside was the biggest thing that changed their business for the better during the pandemic. Of the pizzerias still open, 78% use curbside carryout/pickup.² Click here to explore best practices and turnkey tools to implement curbside carryout in your pizzeria today!
  • Host an online class. People are making more food at home. So why not capitalize by teaching some (but not all) of what you know in creating amazing pizza? You can charge a small fee and forge new relationships with your customers. Consider offering take-home packs to go along with your classes.
  • Try to keep your staff. Keeping staff is something every operator wants to do. But more than four-fifths of restaurants cut at least some staff due to the pandemic.1 Since good employees are the hardest resource to find, and it costs more to train someone new, it makes sense to do all you can to keep them. One solution is to repurpose roles to support increased phone orders and updated sanitation protocols. For example, Cristy’s Pizza added a role to their daily schedule to focus on sanitation each shift. Learn more in our operator roundtable video series.

You’ll get through this

In this era of COVID restrictions, pizzeria operators are constantly having to reinvent themselves. The best thing you have to rely on for repeat business throughout the winter months is the very best product your pizzeria has to offer. It may be tempting to cut back on ingredients, but your customers know you for your signature taste and will continue coming back. After all, your taste is the one thing they can depend on to stay the same.


¹ Datassential, 2020
² PMQ, 2020

Date: November 3, 2020