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Granite City debuts outdoor dining pods for winter months

The restaurant's heated outdoor dining pods drew inspiration from CRAVE as well as other Twin Cities breweries which have utilized a similar concept, Granite City general manager Weston Baril said.

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Granite City in south Fargo is now offering a new customer experience in their winter outdoor dining pods. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — Despite early-December temperatures approaching or exceeding 50 degrees, Granite City Food and Brewery is rolling out heated dining pods on its outdoor patio to offer a new experience for diners.

General manager Weston Baril told The Forum that Granite City drew inspiration for their dining pods from other restaurants such as CRAVE's outdoor "igloos" and breweries in the Twin Cities which have utilized similar concepts.

With demand rising, Granite City requested that customers limit their time in the pods to 90 minutes so all those who are interested can have a chance to dine in the pod.

"As word gets out, we see demand for this get pretty high, so we want to make sure we give everyone an opportunity to dine out there," Baril said.

The restaurant also asked that groups spend $100 on weekdays and $150 on weekends, though Granite City won't apply extra charges if customers don't meet the threshold. With extra work required for employees, the bill request is in place to make it worthwhile for the restaurant to offer the pods, Baril explained.

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"It's extra steps for our staff, so we want to make sure it's worth it for them and for us to have people out there," he said.

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Joe and Karen Gebhart, left, along with Jim and Kim Haug enjoy an evening out in the winter dining pod at Granite City in south Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

Granite City's pods are COVID-19-friendly as well, Baril said. Pods are cleaned, sanitized and ventilated between tables.

"I think it provides that experience people are looking for where they want to go out, have a good time and have someone else do all the work, but they want to be safe," Baril said.

Patrons have been taking advantage of winter's slow start, Baril said. A recent large group seated adults in one pod and children, who played cornhole on the patio, in another. Owing to recent mild temperatures, he noticed the interior of the pods was already 50 degrees before turning on the heaters.

Recent Facebook posts announcing the new dining option garnered hundreds of reactions within a matter of hours, Baril remarked.

"I think people are really excited and really interested and curious about what it is," he said. "The groups that we’ve had out there have really had a great time."

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Granite City in south Fargo is now offering a new customer experience in their winter outdoor dining pods. David Samson / The Forum

Overall restaurant traffic has been "much better" than anticipated, Baril said.

"I think that our guests come in and see that we're wearing masks, cleaning, sanitizing and being as safe as we can for our staff and our guests," he continued. "I think they notice that and if people feel safe, they’re going to come back."

The pandemic has forced Granite City to embrace a new business model. Previously, between 5% and 10% of sales were for off-premise consumption, but that figure has spiked to 50% on some days due to the pandemic, Baril said.

Click here for more on InFourm's restaurants and bars coverage.

Because diners see a restaurant that's below its standard capacity, Baril said staff have to minimize any "hiccups" inside.

"We're trying to take care of our guests in the building and we've got just as much going on behind the scenes that we're seeing out the front door in to-go boxes," he said.

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Granite City is hoping to plan other outdoor events, including some local brewery showcases, for as long as the weather allows.

“We’re trying to come up with some ideas to utilize this great weather," Baril commented.

Thomas Evanella is a reporter for The Forum. He's worked for The Forum for over three years, primarily reporting on business news. He's also the host of the InForum Business Beat podcast, which can be streamed at InForum.com/podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Reach him at tevanella@forumcomm.com or by calling 701-241-5518. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEvanella.
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