COVID-19: Outdoor Seating Safety Tips

covid-19 outdoor seating safety tips

Outdoor seating has always provided diners with an experience that indoor spaces cannot. They are more open and spacious, and they serve up fresh air and views of sunsets, nature, streets, skylines, and more. These are some of the reasons why 1 in 3 Americans nationwide prefer outdoor seating to sitting indoors. Today, outdoor seating is providing diners with something else: physical distancing and increased safety. You have probably seen this on your local news channel, or read about it online. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced public health officials to close restaurants, quick-service restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, among others.

However, many cities and counties are allowing these and other food services businesses to operate in outdoor settings, so long as they follow safety guidelines. Businesses in the personal services and fitness industries are also eligible to operate outdoors in many U.S. cities. These include hair salons, nail salons, gyms and yoga studios. If you have been wondering how to expand your company’s outdoor seating during these uncertain times, this Balboa Capital blog article is for you. It features outdoor seating safety tips for businesses.

See what types of businesses can operate outdoors.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases varies from city to city, and the numbers often increase or decrease faster than the news can report them. As a result, each city has its own list of business types that can operate outdoors under the national public health order, and these lists can change at a moment’s notice. Visit the official government website of your city or state to find out the latest information for small business owners. If you are unable to find a list online, give your local government office a call.

Follow layout and health department protocols.

Just because your business has space outdoors does not mean you can start using it. There are quite a few rules and regulations relating to open space layouts and social distancing that you must comply with. Outdoor furniture and canopies can only be placed in approved areas, and they cannot obstruct walkways or emergency access points for the fire department. Your outdoor space also needs to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Until the risk of COVID-19 transmission mitigates to the point where physical distancing rules are eased, you will need to follow current guidelines to maximize the safety of your customers and employees. These include signage and markings in designated areas that indicate 6-foot distancing, mandatory face coverings, and seating that is at least 6 feet apart. Depending on the city in which your business resides, you may need to apply for a permit to operate outdoors, and be prepared to provide proof of liability insurance.

Purchase commercial outdoor furniture.

If your business is eligible to operate outdoors, and you meet the criteria required by your local government, it is time to purchase commercial outdoor furniture. There is currently a strong demand for commercial chairs, tables, canopies, and portable barriers, so you might have trouble finding the items you want. A survey of vendors in the outdoor furniture industry reveals that sales of commercial outdoor furniture have increased 83% over the past three months.

Vendors attribute the increased demand for their products to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you do not have funds available to buy everything with a one-time purchase, consider financing it. This option is easy on your budget because it requires lower out-of-pocket costs and spreads out your payments over a length of time.

Store your furniture during off-hours.

You invested in outdoor furniture for your small business, so it is important to keep it in the best possible condition, and free from theft. If you keep your outdoor furniture set up during off-hours, it can collect dust, dirt, spider webs, and mildew, and it can even begin to rust and deteriorate. Over time, your furniture will look weathered and unattractive, which is bad for business.

Lastly, leaving your furniture outdoors when your business is closed can violate city laws. Look for spaces in your business where you can store your furniture and access it easily. If your business does not have enough indoor storage room, think of other options. Perhaps you can cover your furniture with a large tarp that is tied securely behind a fence or gate, or get a lockable storage shed that can sit behind your property.