Just by looking at the numerous patio spaces that have been built around the region and the many street closures here and there, you can tell restaurant patio culture has grown over the past three years in the downtown cores of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo.
Spurred by the economic cataclysm of forced closures of indoor dining rooms during the pandemic, outdoor restaurant seating became one way a food operation could try to survive. And that outdoor seating continues to be popular with customers.
Today, the infrastructure for setting up a patio on city sidewalks outside a restaurant has been refined, and the result has seen them embraced by customers wishing to dine al fresco, whether or not they are still anxious about sitting indoors with other people.
In Waterloo, the core has seen restaurant patios and side-street closures grow in number, according to Tracy Van Kalsbeek, executive director of Uptown Waterloo’s Business Improvement Area (BIA).
“Starting with COVID-19, the number of patios in Uptown has exploded,” says Van Kalsbeek. “This year, we’re sitting at 50 patios. We were at 48 or 49 last year. It’s a program we’ve continued to promote with the businesses.”
Even Words Worth Books in Uptown, which is not exactly known for its bistro dining, has a patio with two bistro tables this year.
According to the book store, it’s a way to connect and work with their next-door neighbours, Just Love Pie, through contests and cross-promotions. An example of a new outdoor community culture being embraced, says Van Kalsbeek.
She adds the BIA helps businesses with funding for furniture and planters and other décor and infrastructure, and works with various city departments to move the bureaucratic process