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Restaurant Expert Sees NYC Finding Its Way on Outdoor Dining

For New York City restaurants, one of the few positives to come out of the pandemic has been the realization that Big Apple residents enjoy eating outdoors.

“It’s an awesome example of what the great operators took advantage of, increasing their capacity without increasing their rent,” said Bo Peabody, venture partner at Greycroft and co-founder of restaurant discovery app Seated, on a recent episode of The Food Institute Podcast.

“They’ve created a separate and distinct dining product that a lot of people love. And a lot of people would prefer.”ow that pandemic restrictions have eased, however, restaurants and the city must strike a balance between giving diners what they want, and ensuring that standards for cleanliness, safety and traffic flows are met.

With that, a New York State Supreme Court judge last month halted the city’s plan to make its outdoor-dining program permanent after a coalition of residents sued to block the program, citing noise, sanitation, and environmental concerns. Over 12,000 establishments currently participate in the program.

“I think that the city is going to find its way to the right place. I think that there are some streets in New York where it doesn’t work, and that’s a problem. But there are some streets and some sidewalks where it works incredibly well, and where the operators handle it really well,” Peabody said. “So hopefully it’ll be dealt with the way it should be dealt with, which is without a blanket.”

Peabody added that he’s bullish on restaurants, both returning to, and increasing their impact on the city, noting that the industry has an important ally on its side – New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

“Eric Adams is a huge restaurant-goer. He loves restaurants. He understands how important they are. They’re a big part of who he is as a person, and I think that’s super helpful,” Peabody said.