With colder weather looming, how can restaurants continue to adapt to attract consumers?

Chung Gobell
Director of Interior Design
Heath Design Group

“Restaurants and bars will need to be more intently focused on customer service to survive the cold months ahead. Some ideas may be to create custom home delivery or express curbside pick-up when there is no option for outdoor dining like tents or ‘igloos.’ These options will need to be conducted at a very high level and with a complete focus on how to make it as easy and convenient as possible for the customer. Everyone wants a dining experience to be as effortless a possible. In the end, we are all very optimistic that the world will beat the COVID-19 virus and we all need to do our best to deal with the current environment and think creatively. Sometimes it takes times like these to create a completely different idea and challenge ourselves. This is how we grow and become a better place.”

Brett Foelber
Marketing Director
MCB Real Estate

“With the uncertainty of what indoor dining capacity will look like throughout the winter months, restaurants can turn to improving their online ordering process and digital experiences. For instance, the creation of an app can help simplify and accelerate the ordering process for carryout or delivery while also growing the connection with customers. Apps can generate endless opportunities for restaurants to promote specials, host virtual events, track customer rewards programs and much more.”

Kelly Ennis
Founder and Managing Principal
The Verve Partnership

“This winter, restaurants are in a tough spot — clearly due to indoor capacity issues vs. exterior stop gaps. It’s going to be challenging to meet the food/bar thing that gets them through this mess. Thinking about this, as a foodie, I am digging a few concepts at the moment:

  1. A hyper-local, hyper-curated meal delivered as home dinners or via kits. Think of the high-end personal chef approach for the everyday restaurant goer. Kind of catering — but way more personal.
  2. Love the restaurant-turned-market idea with their favorite recipes as the fare sold at the market.
  3. Restaurants need to build relationships now via stellar service, personal notes from the server and/or as a guest. Give the server a note (along with a tip). We could all use a little love right now.”

Bill Holzman
Vice President, Retail Leasing
St. John Properties, Inc.

“We continue to see tremendous ingenuity among our restaurant clients to creatively maximize outdoor seating with the use of tents, heaters and firepits where possible. The timing of the recent announcement of the $2.5 million Baltimore County Small Business Fund, which provides grants up to $15,000 to restaurants to help extend the outdoor dining season, could not be more ideal. We also applaud the efforts of the State of Maryland which, last week, unveiled an emergency business relief fund that has pledged $50 million to support the efforts of restaurants investing in tents, ventilation upgrades, protective equipment and cleaning services. As more consumers make the choice to dine indoors, we suggest restaurants follow best practices as outlined by the National Restaurant Association as well as state and local health departments to assure safety. Several of our restaurant clients are utilizing retractable or overhead doors that are being kept open to improve the flow of outside air. We expect the sharing of additional ideas as they become battle-tested around the country.”

J. Scott Wimbrow
MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services, LLC

“Based on my discussion with Henry DeFord and Mike Gioioso, the restaurant gurus at MacKenzie, we all agree that restaurants are pushing the definition of Maryland’s four seasons with the addition of heartier commercial-grade tents and high-performance heaters. Some have even humbly encouraged loyal diners to bring a blanket for ‘dinner in the crisp fall air’. Pent up demand around pro sports brought some increased traffic back to bars and restaurants. Look for fun new spins on gathering for televised events beyond sports to appeal to more than just the average bar fly. Think: watch parties for the finale of The Bachelor, or Supreme Court testimony and election night. This winter is certain to be a challenge with limited interior capacity and consumer fears, but it is also the opportunity to refine and grow earlier adaptations like curbside carry-out, contact-free catering and online ordering to mitigate the decreased dining room traffic.”