Here’s how one Dayton restaurant is trying to keep its patio diners happy — and warm

Karen Wick-Gagnet knows that a portion of her customers at Coco’s Bistro in Dayton are not yet comfortable with the idea of dining inside a restaurant, no matter how clean it is or how far apart the tables are. But many of those customers DO feel comfortable eating outside, on Coco’s covered — but not enclosed — patio.

“We’ve had a great patio season, and I want to extend our outdoor dining as long as possible” into the fall, Wick-Gagnet said, echoing the sentiments of many other local restaurant owners who are trying to do everything they can to help their businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Business at Wick-Gagnet’s restaurant at 250 Warren St. is down, some weeks by as much as 40 percent, from last year, but patio dining has been a bright spot and has kept Coco’s Bistro’s losses from being even worse, the restaurant’s co-founder said.

So last week, Wick-Gagnet rented eight large portable propane patio heaters to provide warmth to guests on Coco’s Bistro’s covered patio. The restaurant owner said she initially looked to buy heaters, but suppliers were sold out, so she leased the heaters from a local party-supply company.

Customers warmed to the idea quickly.

“We can move them, we can turn them up or down,” Wick-Gagnet said. “It’s another aspect to manage, but we are doing what we can to extend service outside.”

Wick-Gagnet said she had dinner under the heaters on the Coco’s Bistro patio herself with her husband and family on a cool night just after the heaters arrived. “They worked great,” she said.

When we visited Coco’s earlier this week after a weekday lunch service, Wick-Gagnet was on her way out — to buy more propane.


For an in-depth look at how several Dayton-area restaurants are trying to extend their outdoor-dining season to help them survive the coronavirus pandemic, check out Sunday’s Dayton Daily News.

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