Dining on deck: relish or perish | ParkRecord.com

Dining on deck: relish or perish

Recent efforts to create outdoor patios on Main Street have highlighted the value of alfresco dining to area restaurants. People come to Park City for the mountain air and want to stay outside, local restaurateurs say.

"That is our summer business," said Zoom manager Joanna Richards. "It’s where 90 percent of our visitors want to sit."

Having a deck or patio is as valuable to a restaurant in summer as slope access for a hotel in winter.

"If we didn’t have a deck, my summer business would be half," said Shabu owner Kevin Valaika.

People want to eat outdoors even before it’s really warm enough to, said Bridge Café owner Emerson Oliveira. Even the staff enjoys it and doesn’t mind the extra work of setting up and taking down the tables and umbrellas, he said.

There’s also the added benefit of attracting passersby. When people see the food, they want it, he said.

The biggest decks in town fill up every night, Valaika said. If a diner can’t eat outside, they’ll often look for another restaurant where they can.

"They didn’t drive up from Salt Lake City to sit inside," he added. "Clean mountain air is what it’s about."

There are no downsides to offering outdoor dining, Valaika insisted, but it is tragic that it only lasts three or four months here.

That makes Mary Potts, party and events coordinator for Bill White Enterprises, question the wisdom of every restaurant creating it.

Some eateries are small and could almost double their indoor seating area if they scrapped their decks or patios and expanded. That would make it easier to profit during the much longer and more lucrative winter season, she said.

About half of the Bill White restaurants do just fine without outdoor dining, she said.

White’s Grappa has one of the largest and most picturesque outdoor dining areas in Park City, but it was created almost more for aesthetics than business, she explained. White is an avid gardener and wanted the restaurant to enjoy a garden atmosphere including small herb and vegetable plots scattered around the property.

John Troilo, owner of Davanza’s on Park Avenue, said he’d create more outdoor seating if he could, but city restrictions prevent him from making major changes to the exterior of his historic building.

Only 20 minutes away in Midway, alfresco dining is taken even more seriously. Summer season is the most profitable for the Heber Valley, so outdoor seating is crucial for success, explained Cafe Galleria owner Cecil Duvall.

He never even considered sacrificing it to create more room indoors.

"It’s a no brainer," he said.

Besides, it’s much easier to host live music outdoors than indoors, he added.

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