By creating simple fabric panels and interlocking magnetic connections, any standard patio umbrella can be converted into a private shelter.
The biggest hurdle to mass implementation in a short time is creating anything from scratch. By adapting existing restaurant assets to meet the current challenges, we increase feasibility and adoption rates. In this instance, that means adapting those ubiquitous patio umbrellas with custom interlocking side panels to create private dining shelters for small groups. Suddenly, any outdoor table and umbrella set can become a mini indoor experience.
Any bar or restaurant with existing patio umbrellas would need to order the side panels. The magnetic system would allow them to install them themselves, and adjust them to their needs. The side panels would come in a standard length, but a range of widths to remain flexible for any shaped umbrella (4- or 6-sided, square or round). The hardest part would be partnering with factories to mass-produce the panels in a timely manner.
The only materials needed would be winter-sturdy fabric and built-in magnets. The fabric would have to be a thick canvas that keeps out the wind and the cold while remaining breathable. Too thin, and the system doesn't work year-round. Too thick or plastic, and the space becomes a moist, muggy hotbox. The canvas that patio umbrellas are typically made from would be nearly ideal.
Beyond this sketch, there is no working prototype. Materials (canvas) would need to be tested against winter conditions, and magnets would need to be tested against sturdiness and usability.
By using existing patio tables and umbrellas, people would only be dining with those they come with, know, and trust. A typical group size may range from 2-8. Whatever the city's guidelines for maximum-sized groups, these umbrella shelters would come nowhere near the max.