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Outdoor Dining in Winter? Sign Me Up!

Outdoor Dining in Winter? Sign Me Up!

Image Source: The Boston Globe

With the arrival of fall — and everything pumpkin, apple and cinnamon — also comes shorter days and cooler temperatures. And while many of us are excited to don our flannel and head to the apple orchard, those in the hospitality industry — namely, restaurants — have an impending sense of doom around what the colder weather may mean for their businesses.

When Massachusetts first began allowing outdoor dining back in May, many people were ecstatic to leave their houses and enjoy some sense of normalcy that didn’t include eating takeout at their kitchen table. When neighborhoods like the North End started to resemble European cities full of outdoor cafes and buzzing spaces, residents and out-of-towners alike flocked to restaurants for al fresco dining and to take in the new experience. However, for many of these spots, once the novelty began to wear off and the temperatures started to drop, so did the masses of people. And with winter and cold temps just around the corner, it’s up to all of us to make sure we help keep our favorite places going through the colder season.

One of my favorite Boston food writers, Scott Kearnan, penned a piece for Boston magazine entitled, I’ll Eat Outside at Boston Restaurants All Winter If I Have To, noting, “If you would have braved the freezing cold for a Patriots game, you should do it to save local restaurants, too.” And I couldn’t agree more. While some people understandably aren’t comfortable eating indoors at a restaurant just yet, I vow to continue to supporting my favorite places this fall — and into the winter if I have to — and below are a few tips for how you can do the same.

Dress accordingly, and come prepared. While I appreciate looking cute as much as the next girl, eating outside in fall and winter is going to require putting comfort over fashion. Wear your puffy coat, and bring a blanket (consider purchasing a travel blanket that can fold up into a tiny bundle for ease of transit). Hat, scarf and fingerless gloves – check! Don an extra pair of socks if you need do, or pack some of those orange hand/foot warmer packets that come in handy during ski season. While many restaurants will hopefully have heaters, it’s up to all of us to make sure to dress for a comfortable experience.

Plan to eat earlier. The clocks turn back an hour on October 31st, meaning the days are going to get even shorter. To take advantage of the warmth of the sun, plan to go out to lunch, or eat an early dinner around 3 or 4pm, when it’s still light out. Take advantage of the warmest times of day to be outside, as we all know the temps really start to drop after dark.

Call head to learn about safety precautions. If you’re trying to determine whether to make a reservation indoors or out, call the restaurant to ask what safety precautions they’ve put into place. Some are installing plexiglass barriers or are spacing tables 8-10 feet. It’s up to everyone’s own comfort level, but if you feel secure in the steps that the restaurant is taking, by all means, make a reservation to dine indoors.

Put on a smile, consider it an adventure, and tip big. If you think you’re cold, think about the poor waitstaff who will be out in the cold potentially all day and all night long to do their jobs. Greet them with enthusiasm, order a warm drink and a toasty meal, and make sure to tip as generously as you’re able after your meal.

Find other ways to support. I also recognize that not everyone is able to go out to eat. Whether you live with someone who is immuno-compromised, are watching your budget, or just aren’t comfortable being at a restaurant yet, there are still things you can do to show support. Follow your favorite restaurants on social media and share their posts with your network. Order take-out, including wine, beer and cocktails to-go. Buy gift cards to dine out at a later date (the holidays are coming, and restaurant gift cards always make great gifts!).

It’s estimated that one in four restaurants may close for good over the course of this winter. And while I hate to dwell on the negative, now is the time for us as a community to step up and support the spots that we hope to return to again next summer, in good weather and sunshine. These restaurants are always there for us when we need a drink after a long day, a celebratory meal for a birthday or anniversary, or a place to hang out in the comfort of friends – so let’s make sure to be there for them too. Happy dining!

Posted by Colleen