Coronavirus Pandemic: Restaurant owners worry colder weather could hurt patio sales

DAYTON — Despite some recent improvement in sales, more than six months into the COVID-19 pandemic restaurants are becoming concerned about the impact Mother Nature could have on their bottom lines.

According to numbers released in recent days by Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA), many restaurants are reporting their highest revenue since the pandemic began, and 70 percent of restaurants have brought back at least half of pre-COVID-19 staff.

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However, there’s no doubt business remains a challenge.

An estimated 80% of restaurants, in a recent survey with ORA, reported they do not anticipate breaking even in 2020.

A big reason for the continued struggle is the limits on seating capacity in dining rooms mandated by statewide social distancing regulations.

Meanwhile, with fall quickly approaching and the Miami Valley already seeing its coolest temperatures since May, some restaurants are concerned colder weather will lead to a drop in customers. With health experts regularly pointing out the outdoors remains the safest place amid the pandemic, many customers still prefer to eat outdoors.

At Basil’s on Market in Dayton, General Manager Eric Heyser estimates 80 percent of the restaurant’s business, at present, is outdoor dining. He worries what the coming months will bring.

“Really, what we’re worried about is the winter,” Heyser said. “As we get into colder weather being right her eon the river, that wind whipping off the river, it’s really going to cut into sales in the wintertime.”

Heyser anticipates that could lead to a cutback in hours, in the midst of a year where the business, like so many, has already had to cut staffing.

It’s part of why ORA is imploring lawmakers in Washington to come to an agreement on a new stimulus bill, and in particular, a new paycheck protection program (PPP).

“PPP will be critical for many in our industry to survive the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” the ORA wrote in a statement.

In the meantime, Heyser said Basil’s will continue to push forward, serving its customers.

“We believe that if we weather the storm and get through to the end there will be a few of us who survive and the ones who survive will be stronger for it,” he said.