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Indoor vs. outdoor dining in the COVID era: What restaurant patrons say they’re comfortable with

A new survey of U.S. adults found that 25% will not feel comfortable dining until a vaccine becomes available.

Indoor vs. outdoor dining in the COVID era: What restaurant patrons say they’re comfortable with
[Photo: Flickr user Eden, Janine and Jim]

New Jersey just became the latest state to allow bars and restaurants to reopen their indoor dining sections, but that doesn’t mean patrons will actually show up. As fall approaches, the weather gets cooler, and states face potential new outbreaks in their fight against COVID-19, a big question for restaurant owners is whether diners will feel safe enough to venture indoors for a bite to eat.

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A new survey from SevenRooms, a reservation and booking service, offers a bit of insight. The company teamed up with YouGov for a poll of U.S. adults and found that 25% would not feel comfortable dining out at all until a vaccine becomes available. A slightly smaller number, 23%, said they’ll stick with pickup or delivery for the rest of the year, while only 38% of those polled said they are “looking forward” to dining out again over the next three months.

[Screenshot: SevenRooms]
But dig into the details, and the results are even more revealing. Of the respondents who said they are interested in dining out again, only 29% said they were comfortable with indoor seating. That’s significantly lower than the 42% who said they’d be comfortable with outdoor seating.

Interestingly, customers seem to take comfort in the familiar: 37% said they’d feel comfortable eating at restaurants they’ve been to before, compared to only 25% who said they’d feel comfortable eating at a restaurant they’ve never been to before.

The survey of 1,237 individuals was conducted in late July and early August.

Research on how the coronavirus spreads is constantly evolving, but experts believe that outdoor environments are generally safer, and many so-called superspreading events have been linked to crowded indoor environments. It’s no wonder why sidewalks and streets in crowded cities like New York have been transformed into makeshift dining rooms.

For cities that aren’t exactly known for mild winters, the question is what will happen when the temperature drops in a few weeks.

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About the author

Christopher Zara is a senior staff news editor for Fast Company and obsessed with media, technology, business, culture, and theater. Before coming to FastCo News, he was a deputy editor at International Business Times, a theater critic for Newsweek, and managing editor of Show Business magazine

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