Valentines’ Day at the Columbus Inn was a little cozier this year. The iconic Wilmington restaurant debuted outdoor structures that can hold up to four guests.
“Although it was not the best weather, the feedback was very positive,” said Hayla DeLano, general manager.
The restaurant has three greenhouses, which can seat up to three people, and one bubble-like popup tent that accommodates up to four.
The restaurant plans to purchase another one or two greenhouses that can set up to six guests, DeLano said.
Owner Louis Capano III spotted similar facilities while dining in Philadelphia. Germantown Garden Grill and Harper’s Garden have plastic igloos.
“He thought it would be a fun option to experience dining ‘out,’ especially for guests who may not be ready to dine inside yet,” DeLano explained.
In Delaware, Caffe Gelato started the trend by installing two greenhouses in front of the Newark restaurant, which fronts Main Street.
In Milton, the Dough Bar, a pizza and pasta restaurant, put up clear plastic “dough balls.” Guests access the domed units through a zippered entrance.
Columbus Inn’s popup buildings have electric heaters in each unit. However, guests are still advised to dress warmly when the temperatures fall into the 30s. The greenhouses have sliding doors and vented roofs.
“We expect to have a piped-in heating solution soon to keep the greenhouses very cozy, even during lower temperatures,” DeLano said.
Tables are close enough to the doors that servers need only open them to take orders and deliver dishes.
As is the case indoors, the tables are disinfected after each use, and all touchable surfaces are sanitized. The staff times reservations to give servers plenty to clean, and they request that the guests respect the time limits and not linger.
DeLano doesn’t know if the restaurant will use the outdoor venues in spring and summer. “We will want to utilize the space on our deck come warmer months,” she said. “But I am sure we will find a use for them in the future.”