Although the pandemic continues to have an impact on the restaurant industry, diners are returning to their favorite spots in increased numbers over last year: food and beverage sales in the restaurant and foodservice industry are projected to be up 19.7% from 2020. Restaurants have adapted to meet new consumer expectations and support a safe and enjoyable dining experience, even amidst concerns about COVID-19.
Outdoor dining has seen a huge jump in popularity since the onset of the pandemic, but its continued presence is debated in some areas where residents say it leads to noise, rodents, and reduced sidewalk access. Others counter that restaurant owners with outdoor patios will contribute more to keeping the streets clean and rodent-free, as they want to offer a pleasant dining experience to their customers. Regardless, outdoor dining continues to be a big contributor to the restaurant industry, and standards help to make this seating selection more comfortable year-round. UL 4041, Outline of Investigation for Outdoor Furniture, provides requirements for the construction and testing of outdoor patio furniture such as tables, tables with umbrellas, chairs, multi-seat products, loveseats, benches, hanging chairs or swings and chaise lounge chairs. It was developed by UL, a member and audited designator of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
Patio chairs and a table with an umbrella may be all that’s needed in the summer, but as the temperature drops, restauranteurs have turned to outdoor heating elements to keep their patios cozy and inviting for dining al fresco. Patio heaters can be powered by propane or electricity (with NYC restaurants recently prohibited from using propane heaters), and both options are guided by NFPA 1, Fire Code. Developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an ANSI member and audited designator, this American National Standard (ANS) has been adopted in jurisdictions throughout North America as a comprehensive, integrated approach to fire code regulation and hazard management. Subsection 69.3.13 guides propane patio heaters, and section 11.1 and subsection 11.5.3 guide electric patio heaters. NFPA also offers a related fact sheet: Outdoor Heater Safety.
Contactless delivery is a newer element of the restaurant industry that has given people both convenience and peace of mind if they seek social distancing, and some companies are taking an extra step by using robots to fulfill their deliveries. While busy city streets may not be ideal for robot delivery devices, the fleets are well suited to college campuses and newer communities with wide sidewalks. There are several robot designs in use, with most rolling on four to six wheels and relying on cameras, sensors, and GPS to navigate to their destination. Standards support the technology that make them functional. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) recently published an international standard guiding automated driving functions similar to those used by delivery robots: ISO 23150, Road vehicles - Data communication between sensors and data fusion unit for automated driving functions - Logical interface. This standard was developed by ISO Technical Committee (TC) 22, Road Vehicles, Subcommittee (SC) 31, Data communication. The ANSI-accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator to TC 22 and SC 31 is SAE International, an ANSI member and accredited standards developer. Autonomous vehicles are also guided by UL 4600, Standard for Evaluation of Autonomous Products, which offers a generalized autonomous system standard framework using light autonomous road vehicles as a concrete example.