Fed: Outdoor dining tied to third of state restaurant sales

  • A waitress seats customers at a restaurant with outdoor dining on a section of street closed to traffic to promote social distancing in Somerville in July.  AP PHOTO/MICHAEL DWYER

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Alfresco dining has become an important part of the restaurant industry in Massachusetts, having “dramatically increased” when state government prohibited indoor dining to slow the spread of the coronavirus, analysts at the Federal Reserve Bank said.

In its latest Beige Book, which draws information from banking and business contacts, the Fed highlighted that more than a third of restaurant sales in Massachusetts this summer came from outdoor dining, which “is unusual in Massachusetts where fewer than 20 percent of restaurants had outdoor dining options before the pandemic.”

Restaurants were allowed to resume indoor dining in June, but many eateries have expanded into outdoor spaces to serve customers who might not be ready for a meal indoors during the pandemic.

Even as overall business activity picked up in July and early August, the outlook among Massachusetts-area businesses remains “highly uncertain,” the Fed said.