This mall just turned its parking garage into an outdoor eating space amid the pandemic

One California mall has found a creative way to let customers eat in a socially distanced way.
Glendale Galleria transformed its parking garage into an outdoor eating area for customers.
Glendale Galleria transformed its parking garage into an outdoor eating area for customers.NBC4

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/ Source: TODAY
By Chrissy Callahan

From carhops and quarantine greenhouses to tables separated by shower curtains, restaurants have found some pretty creative ways to encourage social distancing as they begin reopening during the coronavirus pandemic.

But one California mall is simply making due with the space it has to give hungry patrons a place to eat.

Over the weekend, the Glendale Galleria in Glendale, California, transformed its parking garage into an outdoor eatery so people may enjoy their takeout from local spots al fresco. The space is set up with plenty of tables and chairs, all positioned several feet apart to allow for social distancing.

Like many businesses in California, Glendale Galleria had to close its doors earlier this month as COVID-19 cases in the state began to rise again. The shopping center's stores and restaurants are only allowed to offer curbside pickup currently, and the parking garage dining area is a temporary solution that Steve Sayers, the mall's senior general manager, said he hopes will drum up some business.

"We set up and began this service on July 25 and will continue to offer it while our indoor operations remain temporarily closed per the LA County Health Order," he told TODAY Food. "Our community and customers appreciate our efforts to help support our tenants wherever we can."

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Four of the mall's food court restaurants are currently taking part in the dining experiment and Sayers said there are two ways diners can get a taste of the action for themselves.

"People can either order online (if offered by the restaurant) or by phone and pick up their order at the designated curbside location. For the more spontaneous diner, customers can walk up to the curbside stand and place an order in person and it will be hand delivered by a restaurant employee," he said.

Sayers and his team created the outdoor dining space as a way to keep up with the demand for outdoor seating options when they noticed that customers were using the mall's patio seats, but were not adhering to social distancing protocols.

"Throughout the pandemic, we’ve focused on new and innovative ways to still be there for our community as a resource and to provide a small sense of normalcy however we can," Sayers said "We have always been a community destination and our makeshift dining area via the parking garage is a way for families (and) friends to have a meal together in a safe, distanced way."

Steven Wong, an Orange County resident, heard about the mall's makeshift outdoor food court this week and was intrigued by the idea.

"I would consider going just for the experience to see what it's like," he told TODAY.

Many on social media echoed Wong's sentiment and appreciated the level of convenience the mall is trying to offer during these tough times.

Some on Twitter admitted that they've already been chowing down on carryout meals in parking lots for quite some time.

Still, some weren't exactly sold on the curb appeal of the unconventional dining space.

And others thought diners would be better off staying at home.

Some on social media also raised a valid point: Would the exhaust from surrounding cars be a bit overwhelming while you're eating?

Sayers was able to clear a few things up about the overall experience.

"We have an open garage where there are no walls so there is good air flow," he said. "It really is not much different than sidewalk dining, except that there is a 15-foot roof above you."