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Restaurant Patio Season During COVID-19 Pandemic

With spring here, summer on the way, and the loosening of many restrictions, the desire to get out and spend time with family and friends increases. While the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us, there are a number of ways that your restaurant can keep patrons safe (but also fun!) while dining outdoors. Welcome back diners and begin recovering lost revenue with responsible outdoor dining.

Update your website and add information to your menus about new procedures for your restaurant’s patio dining. To keep your patrons and staff safe, remember to follow all current CDC guidelines for restaurants.


Benefits of outdoor dining for your business

  • Outdoor dining provides a less risky alternative to indoor dining for patrons and staff when proper protocol is followed. Remember, the coronavirus is transmitted when an infected person sneezes or coughs, spreading droplets through the air. Outdoor spaces are better ventilated and less crowded than indoor spaces.1
  • Since indoor dining is still limited in many areas, outdoor dining gives restaurants extra space.
  • With that extra space, many restaurants may be able to rehire some staff due to increased space and a likely increase in patrons.


  • Make sure you obtain any needed permits from your municipality.
  • Seating capacities still exist. Even outdoors, tables must be at least six feet apart for social distancing.
  • Servers should minimize spending too much time with customers and should maintain proper distance from them.
  • Reinforce existing disinfecting procedures. Wipe down and disinfect tables after every use, using approved hard-surface cleaning materials and paying attention to key touch points. Allow enough time between seating to allow for proper disinfection of tables.
  • Let guests know in advance if you are implementing a dining schedule or limit on seating time. Post information about any new changes to your website and social media accounts.2
  • Know your local and state regulations for masks in restaurants. Some areas allow guests to remove their masks while they are seated at the table, while others are requiring masks on unless guests are actively eating or drinking.
  • Most states are allowing a maximum of 4-6 guests per table. Some states are stating that bar seating is not allowed, even if it is set up outdoors and guests are sat six feet apart.

          Creating or enhancing your outdoor space

          • Add social distancing reminder signsand directional arrows on the floor so that guests know the proper flow for traffic.
          • Use planters and other sturdy dividers to distinguish the area while enhancing the ambience.
          • As you design the space, make it easy for your staff to service tables.3
          • Use your parking lot. If you have a private parking lot or designated parking spaces for your restaurant, block them off for designated outdoor seating area if possible.4
          • Use sidewalks and alleys. If you have space, set up tables on the sidewalk (following local ordinances) or in an alley space between your building (as long as it’s not close to your trash).
          • Don’t forget about your restaurant’s ambience. Bring the elements of your indoor space outside and create the atmosphere your guests love, such as plants or artwork.
          • Once you’ve got your outdoor plans in place, let local press know your restaurant is offering or enhancing patio dining.
          • Implement safety measures to reduce risk of accidents like slips and falls.

              Consider new technologies

              • Implement technology to limit touching surfaces:
                • QR code menus. These allow you to replace printed menus with those that have QR codes which can be scanned by smartphones.
                • Touchless payment. “Tap” or mobile payments transmit information from a debit or credit card’s microchip to the payment terminal, preventing any exchange of payment between the server and guest.

              Make sure you have proper insurance coverage for your restaurant!



              1. TouchBistro
              2. CheersOnline
              3. CoverWallet
              4. UpServe

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              Erica Dalton

              Merchants Insurance Group

              Merchants Insurance Group sells its products through a network of more than 1,000 independent insurance agents in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. We sell our products through independent insurance agents because we believe they provide value to policyholders through their broad range of products and their insurance expertise.