As the weather turns cold and COVID-19 spreads throughout the state, restaurants are having to rethink how they plan to entice diners to their establishment.
Some have decided to use individual igloos and small enclosures for dining, which had for a short time been banned by the state but were eventually deemed allowable.
But many other restaurants are considering a rather unconventional option: encouraging patrons to “BYOB.”
The campaign was begun by the Barker Specialty Company in Cheshire and several area chambers of commerce, encouraging people to bring warm blankets to wear while they dine outdoors.
“The idea was to change the perspective of people that go into a restaurant,” Gerry Barker, president of Barker Specialty Company, said. “Sitting outside being a little uncomfortable to support not only the restaurant, but also to allow them to dine safely, would be a worthwhile objective.”
The campaign began three weeks ago as an idea from Barker’s son, Max Barker, who thought about the fact that people pay to go to football games and use blankets to keep warm and would do the same to support local restaurants.
Several Cheshire restaurants, including Cheshire Coffee and Viron Rondo Osteria, have implemented the BYOB policy. Viron Rondo Osteria also has fire pits and outdoor heaters on their patio.
“People were doing it all along anyway. It seems to be well received. It makes it a little more cozy,” said Heidi Heidkamp, general manager of Viron Rondo Osteria.
Lynn Ward, president and CEO of the Waterbury Regional Chamber, learned of the idea from Barker.
“As people are coping with the new way of living during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are stepping up in new ways to show our support,” Ward said in a press release.
The Waterbury Regional Chamber held a contest encouraging people to snap photos while eating with a blanket and email them in until Nov. 9 for a chance to win a $50 restaurant gift card.
With the new guideline, Barker thinks it would be good idea for restaurants to join the campaign. He stressed that with restaurants offering it and patrons participating, they are supporting one another. Every restaurant participating has a sign in the front of the business.
“The change in thought process is to go dining and be comfortable and to support the restaurants,” Barker said. “At the same time, it’s also a way for the restaurants to thank their customers.”