Consumers Are a Little More Comfortable With Dining, Film Screenings Outdoors Rather Than Indoors

Polling comes as health officials warn of COVID-19’s elevated spread indoors

People dine al fresco in Little Italy on Mulberry Street between Hester and Broome streets on July 4, 2020, in Manhattan, New York City. (Byron Smith/Getty Images)

In a possible boon to restaurants and businesses that can operate outdoors, new polling finds that consumers are somewhat more comfortable doing certain activities outside instead of indoors. 

Respondents in the July 14-16 poll were 12 percentage points more likely to say they’d feel comfortable seeing a film outside rather than confined within the walls of a traditional theater. Many drive-in movie theaters are seeing a boost in business this summer as customers who are afraid to be surrounded by strangers find a way to satisfy their craving for entertainment outside of their homes.

Restaurants and gyms should also be mindful of providing outdoor seating or spaces if possible: The public is a respective 7 and 8 points more likely to feel comfortable dining out and then working off those calories outside, as opposed to inside.

The Morning Consult poll, which was conducted among 2,200 U.S. adults and holds a margin of error of 2 percentage points, comes amid a growing consensus among medical professionals that the coronavirus more easily spreads indoors, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends at least 6 feet of social distancing inside and outside. 

Several cities, including Burbank, Calif., and Baltimore, have temporarily closed lanes or entire roads to allow restaurants to expand their outdoor dining into the streets. But a recent heat wave across much of the country could pose a new roadblock for outdoor dining and other activities, with health experts advising millions of residents to remain indoors to avoid heat-related illnesses.

The findings also suggest that, as winter brings colder weather, many businesses that don’t have the option of operating outdoors could face even more financial hardship if the virus continues its spread through the end of 2020.

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