patios open

Bars and restaurants in Ontario see big sales boost after patios reopen

Toronto and the rest of the province is feeling more like itself now that patios have reopened as part of Step 1 of reopening, bringing some life back into the streets of cities and towns across Ontario after months of stern, forced business closures.

Though Premier Doug Ford and his team gave bars and restaurants a bit more warning this time than he did when he loosened pandemic restrictions in the past, businesses were still scrambling to prepare to go from 0 to 100 last weekend, which was, predictably, absolutely bonkers.

Establishments that had long only been able to serve food and drink to customers through takeout and delivery were, as of Friday June 11 at 12:01 a.m., able to entertain socially distanced groups of up to four people on outdoor terraces — with no capacity limits — until the long-lost pre-COVID last call of 2 a.m.

This meant midnight "masses" (for those worshippers of Dionysus), waitlists to nab coveted tables, bustling streets and sidewalks, and lots of spending by residents who were thrilled at the chance to finally patronize their favourite local haunts and eat and imbibe among friends in public once more.

According to Clover, a company behind POS systems for such businesses, Ontario bars and restaurants saw about a 57 per cent increase in sales from Friday to Monday compared to the same time the week before.

The brand's data also showed that customers were willing to purchase more when seated on a patio than when ordering from home, with the average bill size increasing by 28 per cent after outdoor dining resumed. 

In places like Toronto, where thousands of eateries were closed for in-person services for all but two weeks since November of 2020, this is obviously welcome news.

The city's small businesses have struggled more than most in the world given that we have adopted the charming epithet of global lockdown capital, with restrictions particularly hard on the hospitality industry despite the fact that such settings were proven not to be huge drivers of virus spread.

patios open

A chart from the BBC showing just how Toronto's restrictions on bars and restaurants measure up to other major cities.

From the beginning of the health crisis until March, only 9 per cent of workplace and community COVID-19 outbreaks had been sourced back to bars, restaurants and nightclubs. This is compared to 68 per cent that derived from warehouses, shipping facilities, construction sites, food processing plants and offices.

Only one outbreak of nearly 550 took place in a personal care service setting.

Hopefully the return of patios will mean that those businesses who weathered lockdown thus far can, if not make up for so much lost time, stay afloat — and continued big purchases and tips from appreciative guests will definitely help that.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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