The Keys to Outdoor Dining During Covid


As we’ve all likely seen in cities from Bethesda to Richmond, outdoor dining has been a critical part of our foodservice environment since the coronavirus pandemic began. Yes, eating outside and al fresco dining is always popular across Virginia, Maryland, and the greater Washington, D.C. area, but this summer has been different. There are some important things to keep in mind when preparing to move your restaurant to outdoor dining during Covid that will help you along the way.

For many restaurants, outdoor dining has been the difference between staying open and closing down for good. City sidewalks are now starting to fill up with diners and some of our roads are closed down to park tables instead of Tahoes or Tacomas.

Now, as summer is drawing to a close and we’re headed into fall, it’s time to look at what outdoor dining looks like in our current state of affairs, as well as some of the things restauranteurs and foodservice operators can do to keep things running al fresco during changing conditions.


People need tables to eat outside. Often those tables are sitting on uneven pavement. Consider stabilizers. Make sure tables are spaced far enough apart. And consider barriers to help restrict movement around tables, whether it be from other diners or from pedestrians walking by.


In many ways, the back-of-the-house has been moved to the front. In some cases, the front-of-the-house is now on the sidewalk. Delivering a tray of hot food from all the way inside through the door next to the bathroom, all the way through the dining room, out the front door, and then across the parking lot to the table in the corner – well, all of that takes time. Consider mobile serving stations that can help servers be more efficient, especially with the easier stuff.


People need to disinfect. Whether it’s a bottle of sanitizer on a host or hostess stand or a free-standing sanitation station, make it easy for both guests and staff alike to pump in, pump out. Clean hands are one of the main keys to staying clean from the coronavirus. We’ve talked in length lately about the difference between cleaning and sanitizing; if you have any questions we have lots of experience in researching this topic with some amazing products available to help disinfect, too.


Yes, as the weather changes, it’s going to be harder and harder to dine outside. Don’t forget, you can always add heat. Consider heating systems that can make al fresco dining a bit more comfortable.

Looking for more tips to help your outdoor dining service?

We have ideas. Contact a specialist at Alto-Hartley, and earn 10% off on your next showroom purchase of our complete range of outdoor dining solutions.