For the past six months, small business owners and consumers have attempted to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic with social distancing—the practice of remaining at least 6 feet apart from others to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.
Throughout the summer, small businesses have discovered and invented ways to thrive in the new normal, but with winter fast approaching, entrepreneurs are encountering a totally new set of challenges.
Cold weather and COVID-19
Cold weather is especially problematic for small business owners for a variety of reasons:
· Outdoor spaces. During warm summer months, many businesses like restaurants and bars have taken advantage of outdoor spaces, giving customers more physical distance and stretching their occupancy limits. But in winter, fewer people will be comfortable in these spaces.
· Crowding. As people search for places to stay warm and still socialize during the winter, some businesses may experience internal crowding, compromising the effectiveness of social distance strategies.
· Customer comfort. Existing customers want to feel warm in your environment, and prospective customers want to feel confident they’re entering a safe, health-conscious space. How can you accomplish this?
How small businesses can adapt
The question is, how can small business owners adapt?
These are some of your best options to remain socially distant while still incentivizing customers to patronize your business:
· Buy outdoor heaters. Invest in a handful of outdoor heaters for your outdoor space to keep it running well into winter. If you’re on a budget, you can find heaters for a few hundred dollars or less. They don’t need to be fancy; they just need to work.
· Install a fire pit. You can make your outdoor space even cozier by installing a fire pit. The warmth and crackle of a roaring fire can instantly make your patio more inviting—just be sure it doesn’t attract a crowd.
· Institute a bring your own blanket (BYOB) policy. Allow people to bring their own blankets to stay warm during cold weather months. It can be a fun way to attract new people, and you won’t have to worry about the virus spreading via your own materials.
· Serve hot beverages. It’s not just an illusion—hot drinks really do warm you up. If you aren’t already, consider serving more hot beverages like coffee, tea, and apple cider. This is especially valuable for people waiting in line outside.
· Host events. Attract more people by hosting special events, like pumpkin carving, holiday decorating, or craft nights.
· Lean into carryout and curbside pickup options. If you’re already offering services like carryout, curbside pickup, and delivery, invest more heavily in these options. Make it convenient and comfortable for customers to continue buying from you.
· Revisit your interior layout. Finally, spend some time adjusting your interior layout. Make room for people waiting in line, and inspect your heating system to make sure it’s working properly.
Are you interested in more information on how your small business can adapt to cold weather during these difficult times? Check out these resources on OpenWeStand.org for more guidance and strategies to try!