Outdoor heaters are latest must-haves in coronavirus era

'People are going through extreme measures to acquire a heater'

Outdoor heaters may not be new, but they're among the hottest commodities on the market for restaurants adapting to the coronavirus era.

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Because of the prevalence of outside dining as consumers and businesses alike attempt to prevent COVID-19 infection, pre-winter demand has surged so much that some propane delivery services are dealing with heater thieves.

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“Tragic as it is, we have had a number of reports of our units and units belonging to some of our clients disappearing in the darkness of night,” Kevin Brennan, general manager of rental business Kangaroo Propane, told FOX Business’s Grady Trimble. “The demand for the product right now is such that people are going through extreme measures to acquire either a heater or equipment that we have for patio tables.”

According to a survey by the National Restaurant Association, nearly 50% of restaurants plan to extend outdoor dining with patio heaters. That helps with business in the autumn, but the colder blasts of winter create a new dilemma since propane heaters are no match for the relative warmth of outdoor tents that many restaurants will employ.

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As a way to prevent fires or carbon monoxide poisoning, heaters specifically made for tents allow warm air to be pumped underneath the covering. They're another major cost for restaurants but buoy the bottom lines of heating companies.

“Our business has been booming to say the least," Brennan said. "And the tragedy is we just can’t get enough heaters to supply the demand in the city of Chicago.

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