Restaurants struggle to find patio heaters, hardware stores work to keep them in stock

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Restaurant owners said propane heaters are a hot commodity this year. Many restaurant owners are using heaters to keep outdoor seating open into the colder months.

“We just want to extend patio season as long as we can,” said Shelby Higgins, the marketing director for Spice Hospitality.

As temperatures drop, some restaurants like Cayenne in Peoria Heights are turning on patio heaters. The problem many restaurant owners are facing is finding them.

“It was hard. I know our owner Travis looked all over the place, wanted to make sure we got a good product in too,” said Higgins.

Nena Ace Hardware store manager Douglas Hausam said it’s hard to keep them in stock too.

“There’s definitely been a big shortage of them. We’ve had far more calls this season than we’ve ever had before,” said Hausam.

He said the shortage even extends to the propane used to the run heaters. This week, they finally got a shipment of nine new patio heaters.

“We had put that backorder in quite a while ago and they just finally came available,” said Hausam.

Depending on the model, heaters can cost more than $100 each. For restaurants, it’s an investment.

“In the long run, I think it’ll pay off, but it was definitely a necessity this year,” said Higgins.

Having a heater helps keep the patio open and more seating available until the flame eventually goes out.

“Here in Illinois, there’s going to come a point when it’s just going to be too cold, and it’ll be interesting to see how that affects everything,” said Higgins.

Hausam said he expects the shortage to continue. He said heaters fly off the shelves and that he has no clue how long the most recent delivery will last.

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