While the temperatures are growing cooler, preferences and restaurant occupancy limitations are keeping many diners on restaurant patios and outdoor dining areas. To encourage people to keep going to area restaurants and to make eating outside a more comfortable experience, Gerry Barker, president and CEO of Cheshire, Connecticut, distributor Barker Specialty Co. (PPAI 102001, D10), along with several area chambers of commerce and local restaurants, are collaborating on a “Bring Your Own Blanket” campaign.

The “Bring Your Own Blanket” or BYOB idea was created to spur business for restaurants, a sector hit hard by the pandemic, during the fall and winter months, and persuade diners to bundle up, visit their favorite local eateries and have a good time.

In a recent story in the New Haven Register, Barker said, “Changing people’s perspectives is really hard … people don’t want to be indoors, we want to socialize with our children and friends [at restaurants]. I can see this campaign being very positive.”

Barker also noted that as diners are encouraged to bring their own blankets to restaurants, the program isn’t intended to be a moneymaker for Barker Specialty. However, in a conversation with PPB Newslink, he did highlight how the program showcased how the right product at the right time can make a difference. He says, “The best element of this campaign is the opportunity to present our creativity and openness to a new way of thinking. We have been impressed with how receptive everyone is and how gracious both patrons and restaurants owners have been.”

Barker adds, “The idea wasn’t to create an avenue for business but there certainly are many possibilities. Blankets are an obvious one—whether sold to restaurants for resale or as a gift with purchase of maybe gift cards. The use of blankets as a fundraiser to support a local charity is another idea as is their use as a prize for a best picture submission or other contest involving outdoor dining. Signage is another opportunity. And we are also discussing possible programs with all types of restaurant suppliers to support their clients.”

Outdoor dining, which has gotten renewed attention due to COVID-19, is increasingly representing a year-round opportunity for promotional products companies. Bob Strem, executive vice president of supplier Kanata Blanket (PPAI 217153, S6), says, “We have recently seen changes in all industries, especially the restaurant industry, with new innovations in safe, outdoor dining. However, with the weather turning colder as fall is here and winter approaches, not every climate is perfect for year-round outdoor dining. This has created a demand in premium products that bring warmth to customers looking to get out and support local restaurants offering outdoor dining experiences. Kanata Blanket has seen an increase in orders from clients looking for products to be used in outdoor-safe gatherings. The world is changing to fit our needs, so Kanata is too.”

Barker’s initiative is finding traction with several area chambers of commerce, with several participating or exploring the idea. He tells PPB Newslink, “We are calling this a ‘community initiative’ and partnered with our local chamber of commerce. The genesis of the idea is really to share an idea to help restaurants, but also to provide opportunities for those who like to dine out—but not in—to have a longer season of outdoor dining.”