food and beverageRestaurant Design

Summer Heat: Tips for Outdoor Dining & Protecting Restaurant Staff

Another summer with extreme heat conditions making their way across the country has left some restaurants facing additional challenges. How do you keep guests coming in when all-weather bulletins suggest it’s better to stay indoors if possible? 

Texas has been under a heat dome since the beginning of June, making parts of the Lone Star State the hottest in the world. Extreme weather, hitting a heat index of 120 degrees, has resulted in power outages, 13 deaths, and fewer people heading out into the great outdoors. According to Restaurant Business, Texas has more restaurants than any other state except California.

At the end of June 2023, the Texas Restaurant Association (TRA) went so far as to urge residents to brave the heat for the sake of the state’s restaurant industry. In a statement, the TRA said, “While it’s too soon to confirm with data, anecdotal evidence suggests the heat wave is hurting restaurant sales at a time when many local businesses need revenue to offset rising costs. The TRA encourages Texans to continue to support their local restaurants that are following extreme heat safety protocols.” 

Which leaves one wondering, what are our industry’s “extreme heat protocols”? 

Other Areas Under Extreme Heat Conditions

Triple-digit heat and unrelenting heat waves continue to impact the South and parts of the West. Phoenix is en route to breaking its all-time record of 18 days in a row of over 110 degrees. Las Vegas may reach 117 by this weekend. 

California’s Central Valley is looking at 114 degrees. If Death Valley reaches its forecasted high of 128, it will be among the highest temperatures ever recorded on Earth, according to the Mercury News. The World Meteorological Organization reported that June 2023 stands as the hottest June ever recorded.

Planning on taking a dip in the water to cool off? Try the Florida Keys, where the ocean surface temperature reached an astounding 95 degrees.

Scientists suggest these conditions will be more common in a warming world as climate change makes heat waves more frequent, intense, and longer.

Restaurant’s Extreme Heat Protocols

While unrelenting heat can feel overwhelming, particularly in the hardest hit areas, there are a few steps restaurants can take to help their staff and guests. 

Misters and Fans

Restaurants across the country are adding misters, water dispensers, and fans to outdoor areas. Restaurant outdoor misting systems can be highly effective. In some cases, they can reduce the temperature by 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. 

They work via high-pressure lines that disperse a fine mist of atomized water particles. These particles flash evaporate, creating a cooling sensation without drenching your guests. Some misters offer customized settings, enabling your staff to adjust certain sections independently, accommodating different guests’ needs.

Backup Equipment

While more challenging, having backup air conditioners or alternative cooling methods and generators should equipment fail or the utility grid go down ensures continued safe operations despite the latest heat waves. 

Changing Hours

Some restaurants are going so far as to change operating hours to bring more people in during the coolest parts of the day. 

Off-Premise Dining

Again, as with the last catastrophe, off-premise dining can be the saving grace for some establishments. Consider increasing your takeout and delivery presence so customers can enjoy your great food and beverages in the comfort of their air-conditioned homes. 

Many restaurants are turning to Chowly, a full-service digital ordering platform, to help them simplify and strategize their online ordering.

How Restaurants Can Protect Their Staff

From normally hot kitchens made even hotter by heat waves to service in outdoor patios and catering events, employees experience the effects of the changing weather patterns. OSHA considers excessive heat a workplace hazard, recommending employers take precautions when the temperature goes over the 91-degree mark. Two years ago, during the summer of 2021, several restaurant workers staged protests and walkouts, describing their working conditions in over 100-degree temperatures. Some sighted broken air conditioners.

In response, some restaurants altered their schedule to help keep employees out of the restaurant during peak temperatures. Employers who put their staff first and recognize unsafe conditions when they arise improve morale and increase retention rate. The strategies restaurants take to support their workers include many of the same ones that help their guests.  

These safety strategies include: 

  • Giving staff additional breaks, enabling them to cool down during their shifts
  • Ensuring air conditions are performing at their peak and getting fans and other cooling devices for the outdoor dining areas 
  • In the hottest areas, some stop serving during peak temperatures
  • Changing hours and menus and keeping a watchful eye on kitchen temperatures 

FAQS

How can I protect my staff from extreme heat?

In addition to the previous recommendations, ensure everyone drinks plenty of water and allow frequent breaks. Standing in the walk-in for a few minutes can make a significant difference if someone is feeling extremely hot. Adjust uniforms and make sure your staff knows the signs of heat exhaustion, including dizziness, lightheadedness, weakness, and nausea.

Should I host more night events at my restaurant during extreme heat conditions?

Yes! Hosting events during cooler evening hours is a great way to help your customers enjoy your beautiful outdoor areas once the temperatures have dropped. To add to the ambiance, consider soft lanterns, string lights, and the latest LED strip lights.

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