Lasting legacy of Covid shacks? Streetscaping.

Pre-pandemic, NYC sidewalks were best known for their trash, smells, cracks, rodents, and crowds.

During quarantine, eating outside became a sanity savior. NYC streets and sidewalks sprouted al fresco dining oases that evoked everything from the Greek Isles to floral fairylands.

As indoor dining moved outdoors, streeteries and streetscaping took over NYC.

Here’s your 101:

WHAT’S UP:

There is momentum for streeteries (outdoor dining) and streetscaping

We felt the first surge in streetscaping the summer of 2020 when restaurants started to reopen via outdoor experiences. A year later, momentum is starting to rise again as cities like NYC decide whether or not to make these “Covid shacks” a permanent fixture.

Hospitality industry leaders like Danny Meyer and city planners are starting to think about outdoor dining through the lens of streetscaping — as they promote the benefits streeteries bring beyond additional seating.

  • Streetscaping creates destinations that get more people outside — beneficial to our physical & mental health
  • It positively impacts urban vitality by increasing a community’s safety, liveliness, and opportunities for social connection
  • There are environmental payoffs: outdoor dining gets cars off the street and compels businesses to keep sidewalks clean

WHAT’S DOWN:

Streets as functional spaces solely for cars to park on and people to walk.

Urban planners are rethinking street design to enable culture & connection to take place.

WHAT’S NEXT:

If the NYC Open Restaurant Text Amendment passes & outdoor dining is here to stay (at least in NYC) — restaurants, hospitality and retailers can lean into the 5 drivers to leverage the momentum for streetscaping:

  1. Disruption: NYC streets look & feel totally different — there’s an opportunity for a mindset shift from outdoor structures being disruptive, a temporary solution and an eye sore, to being a benefit that beautifies and revitalizes the city.
  2. Polarization: Those that are pro permanent outdoor dining / streetscaping think permanent outdoor dining will make streets safer and help neighborhoods thrive. Opponents worry about cons like increased noise, more litter and unwanted rodents (all of which exist in NYC regardless).
  3. Stickiness: Restaurants are leveraging “the experience factor” of creating memorable outdoor dining destinations to attract customers. Outdoor dining & streetscaping is an opportunity to take your aesthetic outside and bring it to life in 3D (beyond your traditional 2D signs).
  4. Innovation: Most outdoor dining structures started off as basic & utilitarian Covid Shacks. As outdoor dining evolved to streetscaping, companies are emerging that specialize in creating beautiful, well-designed structures. One example is Floratorium, whose stunning silk flower installations have transformed streeteries like Lola Taverna and LouLou into insta-worthy outdoor dining concepts.

5. Social Impact: Streetscaping democratizes urban revitalization because it’s not just for five-star restaurants in upscale neighborhoods. Its effects can bring up the value of lower-income neighborhoods too. Think Union Square Cafe, which turned the once-seedy Union Square into a bustling area by inspiring other restaurants on the street to also up their game.

Best Days Ahead,
Mike

Momentum Maker, Author of Maximum Momentum, Founder & CEO of Decode_M