Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, foodservice operators have had to adjust to limited indoor capacity with expanded outdoor seating options. For many establishments, this went beyond just patio seating, with expansion onto sidewalks, into closed-off sections of streets or into adjacent parking lots.

If consumers have their way, this trend will continue long after things return to relative normalcy. Consumers responded favorably to these additional outdoor options, with 43% of adults saying they sat outside at a table that was located on a sidewalk, parking lot or street during the last 12 months.

According to a recent survey from the National Restaurant Association, nearly double that number believe these seating options should continue indefinitely, with 84% of adults saying they favor allowing restaurants to continue setting up tables on a sidewalk, parking lot or street on a permanent basis.

More than 4 in 10 full-service operators and roughly 1 in 4 limited-service operators say they added outdoor seating on a sidewalk, parking lot or street since the start of the pandemic in the US. This trend could continue as operators respond to the customer demand.