INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Restaurants have spent months winterizing menus and creating warm outdoor dining options for customers who want to eat outside due to the pandemic. The city of Indianapolis is also stepping up to help reimburse local establishments.
Bru Burger on Mass Ave is one local chain that has heaters on the outside patio. Other establishments have placed orders but some can’t find any right now for commercial use. That’s why some eateries have added canopies, added insulation or temporary construction to their patios.
It’s a change for restaurants not only in Indianapolis but throughout the state.
Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association President Patrick Tamm says the purpose is to make it comfortable for all customers. Changes to menus have been made. Restaurants have added new items, which include food and drinks, all to entice customers to come in and enjoy getting out of the house.
They’re encouraging customers to BYOB, bring your own blanket, to sit outside and enjoy time under the heaters.
“Right now, people say our restaurants are busy,” Tamm said. “It’s because we have 50% of our tables off the floor and in Marion County right now, no one is making it and hotels, no one is making it. So it’s cold, we get that. Igloos are there and canopies are there but will customers be willing to do that and that’s the challenge?”
The city of Indianapolis launched the ready for winter grant program. It’s a $1 million reimbursement plan to help local businesses create outdoor dining in the winter months. It reimburses restaurants up to $2,500 per location for expenses related to the project.
In September, the association surveyed more than 2,500 restaurants in Indiana. At that time, 41% said they wouldn’t make it in the next six months under current business conditions. Forty-six percent said without federal aid they wouldn’t make it.