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Outdoor Dining Is a Hit, but N.Y.C. Restaurants Face ‘Apocalyptic’ Times

“I’m just really sick of spending money to make nothing,” said Mr. Adler, who estimated he had spent $5,000 on his outdoor patio setup.

In Jackson Heights, the epicenter of the pandemic in April, stores are open again and some street life has returned. But outdoor dining has been slower to catch on, and some workers said serving outside was both more difficult and paid less.

Lobsang Yiknyen, 30, who works as both manager and server at Phayul Himalayan Restaurant, said the extra work included carrying orders for longer distances between the kitchen and tables, and hauling in the elaborate outdoor setup every night.

Before the pandemic, the restaurant had 10 employees; now it has five. Tips are down too, hovering between 10 percent and 12 percent.

“It’s hard to serve the people and get to the people on time,” he said. “They get stressed.”

Across the street, at Angel Indian Restaurant on 37th Road, Mr. Singh said the few tables he had set up under umbrellas had not brought in much business.

His sales, he said, are still down by 70 percent from pre-pandemic levels, and he credits delivery, not outdoor dining, for his survival.

“Customers give me good support, my neighborhood is supporting me,” he said. “That’s why I’m standing here.”

Matthew Sedacca, Nate Schweber and Alex Traub contributed reporting.

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