5 Great Weather Apps That Outdoor Bar and Restaurant Owners Rely On

In the pandemic, extreme weather matters more than ever.

Clarity in Vienna. Photograph courtesy of Clarity
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Storms and extreme temperatures, once a potential annoyance, have become make-or-break events for restaurants and bars in the pandemic as many rely on outdoor service.

“The risk is revenue. We’re all operating on very narrow profit margins with limited capacity,” says Steve King, co-owner of Imperial and Jack Rose, both of which rely on largely uncovered rooftops for on-premise service. “Everything is now is on a week-to-week basis depending on the weather.”

Suddenly weather apps aren’t just handy—they’re essential for staffing the right number of employees or making food orders (or not). Here are some of the hospitality industry favorites:

Dark Sky
Industry folks across the board recommended this user-friendly app, which gives hyperlocal forecasts seven days, breaks conditions down in great detail, and sends alerts for impending rain. King coined another name—“The God App”—for the service. “I don’t know what deal they have with satellites or mother nature to get their information but it’s batting at least in the 90th percentile for accuracy,” he says. Bad news for Android users, though: Dark Sky stopped working on the device as of August 1 due to its acquisition by Apple. For those who aren’t able to use Dark Sky, the AccuWeather app—developed for Android—is also a popular choice.

Weather Underground and RadarScope
A longtime staple for weather obsessives, this service has been operating since 1993. Clarity chef/owner Jonathan Krinn, who launched several concepts and an outdoor kitchen in his Vienna restaurant’s parking lot, swears by it–plus an added layer of analysis from the RadarScope app. “Weather Underground has really timely and accurate daily/hourly forecasts. With RadarScope I might as well be working at the Weather Channel—it’s so accurate on the location of rain and lightning.”

Landlubbers may not know of this sailing app, which emphasizes winds as well as other atmospheric conditions. Angela DelBrocco, co-owner of new Shaw drinking garden Electric Cool-Aid, discovered it in her past life as a professional sailor. “SailFlow is helpful because it focuses on wind, and when you’re all outdoors with umbrellas and canopies, wind is crucial,” says DelBrocco. Still, she warns: “It’s less accurate the further you go from the water.”

What the Forecast?!!
If you’re interested in a laugh with your tropical depression, this sassy weather app “will explain, in real terms, how nasty it is outside,” per the website. Fun features include “over 9607 obnoxious phrases describing the current weather conditions,” and adjustable profanity settings.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.