6 Terrible Submissions From the Chicago COVID-19 Winter Dining Challenge

With the winter months rapidly approaching, the city of Chicago is frantically trying to figure out what they are going to do with restaurants and bars. As (mildly) successful outdoor dining has been in keeping establishments operable, the harsh winter of Chicago will make that untenable. Thus, we have the City of Chicago Winter Dining Challenge.

As of writing this, it seems as though Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the city of Chicago have no real plan for indoor dining at restaurants for the upcoming winter season. That’s why they are turning to you, the citizens, to help decide how you want to eat this winter.



OpenIDEO, along with Chicago, is hosting a City of Chicago Winter Dining Challenge where anyone can submit their ‘idea’ for how restaurants in Chicago should conduct outdoor dining this winter amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. And rather than give you any more information on something that every other outlet has already touched on, we decided to scroll the depths of the submission pool to find some of the worst, most absurd, Chicago Winter Dining Challenge submissions people have sent in.

They’re glorious and insane and beautifully out of control. Here are six of our favorites!

Image Credit: Amy Shouder Submission

Heated Outdoor Glow Chairs

Something tells us the concept for heated outdoor glow chairs isn’t going to solve the indoor dining problem at restaurants in Chicago this winter. Sure they might have a toasty bum but that’s going to do nothing to protect them from the brutal winter winds. And let’s also be honest with ourselves here, the glow in the dark aspect is more lame than it is inventive. Imagine driving down Halsted and seeing a group of three sitting on a yellow, purple, and orange seat.

The next thing you know your head is turning to the right because it’s kind of eye-catching and you want to count the colors of the rainbow and then…SMACK. You’re now in a car accident because someone in 28-degree weather wanted Cafe Ba Ba Reeba and felt it was a good idea to sit on some glorified glow sticks.


The conceptualization is actually well thought out even if it is kinda terrible. There is just so much going on here and all of it feels like it’s prepared to just combust at any given moment.

Full Submission Details


Rats with Radiators

Rats run this city. In fact, rats are probably the largest demographic accounting towards the population in Chicago. This is clearly a fake submission but it’s also a hilarious submission to the Chicago Winter Dining Challenge. That’s evidenced by the image above.

Interested in the equity of the project? No worry, rats from every background and from every part of the city will be utilized to fix the indoor dining issue in Chicago. We don’t discriminate against rats here. Curious about the research that went into this? It doesn’t take a peer-reviewed study to know that Rats with Radiators is a spectacular idea.


However, perhaps the most important aspects of this pitch for the Chicago Winter Dining challenge includes safety. If you must know, all rats will be temperature checked before being issued their radiators. This is important to note, as humans aren’t the only ones on the hook for this safety thing. Like everyone in Chicago, background and experience lies in having a yard with too many rats.

Constitutional Monarchy! We literally can’t even keep up with this anymore.

Full Submission Details


You are guaranteed to light your legs on fire in the ‘Firetable’ mock-up made for the Winter Dining Challenge in Chicago. For real, who thought that a standard picnic table with a live fire underneath would be a safe way to dine outdoors at restaurants. Do you know how many times we’ve scratched our knees at a table? I see a zero percent chance that no one burns themselves substantially in this design. It almost looks like joke table that you’d see in a high school cafeteria with the trouble maker kids who just light some stuff on fire and put it underneath the lunch table.

Also, glass top? In this economy? Probably not.

Full Submission Details

Chicago Winter Dining Challenge

P.O.D.: Proposed Outdoor Dining Solution

Like the band, the idea of P.O.D. isn’t bad in theory until you look at the specs and realize that it too looks like a place where you’d discover the souls of the youth of the nation.

You like that line? Well good, because you won’t like this design. It’s quite literally a shipping container converted into a place to eat which feels ominously murderous. It’s proposed by James and Blake Hospitality which sounds like the name of the company you’d create for your senior year home economics project and likely get a C+ on. The advantages list Durability, Affordability, Customization, and Additions which stands for DACA, although we don’t believe anyone is dreaming about this design winning.

Full Submission Details

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Chicago Winter Dining ChallengeBuilding an Actual Igloo with City Snow

Well, if you think about it, this idea for the Chicago Winter Dining Challenge would be entertaining for kids wanting to turn a summer lemonade stand into a winter hot cocoa stand. Igloos are neat and fun to make but we’re not sure if the designer here thought about the practicality of it from a size and heat/warmth standpoint. Also, have you seen Chicago’s snow? None of it is that white and in reality it’s super gross so you can miss us with the idea of making a snow igloo a thing that we eat a decent meal out of this winter.

A couple highlights from the submission include citing that this is already done in Japan and that the instructions might be somewhere and the fact that everyone can participate in making it. This person really thought out the whole, ‘let’s-get-Chicago-back-to-work’ thing.

Full Submission Details
Chicago Winter Dining Challenge

Community and Cheer in the Cold

This final submission for outdoor dining at restaurants in Chicago is so cynical it hurts. This is the ‘suck it up, you millennial!’ version of “I used to walk uphill both ways to school in the -43 degree cold with nothing more than a pair of cardboard boxes for shoes.” We can just feel the person who wrote this shaking their clenched fist in my direction as they try and convince the world that be happy and get used to Chicago cold is the right move here. Listen, we’re from Chicago and perhaps we do overreact to winters here a little too much so the general premise is understood, but c’mon. There is no way we’re letting this whole community cold counseling thing fly in a public submission board.

Full Submission Details


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Featured Image Credit: OpenIDEO