Ohio Restaurant Owners Fear They May Close in 9 Months

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio’s restaurant owners and operators say 48% of their businesses are operating at 50% capacity or less and more than half feel they will be forced to permanently close within nine months. As outdoor patio season comes to an end, some worry they will not survive the winter without additional government support.

Over the past several months, the Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) has conducted a weekly statewide poll on the health of restaurants across Ohio to gauge the impacts of COVID-19 on the industry. The ORA has now shifted to a bi-weekly survey and the results continue to be sobering.

“The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Ohio’s restaurants have been detrimental and disheartening to most in our industry, but we continue to fight for the industry alongside our restaurant members,” said John Barker, president and CEO of the ORA. “Even though 80% of survey respondents have reopened their dining rooms and three quarters have brought back 50% to 100% of their employees, 56% believe they will still be forced to close at their current capacity. Restaurants need support now more than ever from their communities and the government.”

Nationally, the National Restaurant Association is reporting that nearly 1 in 6 restaurants, representing about 100,000 restaurants, have closed either permanently or long-term since the start of the pandemic. Nearly 3 million employees are still out of work, and the industry is on track to lose $240 billion in sales by the end of the year.

The ORA continues to advocate for Ohio’s restaurants by joining with the National Restaurant Association to push for congressional assistance for the restaurant industry through the Blueprint for Restaurant Revival, and by creating the Unified Industry Voice campaign and the Ohio Restaurant Promise to provide clarity about the comprehensive steps the industry takes to provide a safe environment. The ORA and the national association are advocating with members of Congress to pass another Relief Bill and a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program.

In addition, the ORA recently gathered restaurant owners and operators from across the state to join together and share what they are doing to keep their valued guests safe while following the Dine Safe Ohio Order. Watch the video here.

The most recent survey was conducted over the course of four days (Sept. 11 – 15) and references information from Ohio restaurants’ business week of Aug. 31 – Sept. 13.

Key findings include:
Sales continue underperform compared to previous years with 53% of respondents reporting sales down 20% to more than 70%.

  • 8% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales declining by more than 70%.
  • 15% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales declining by 50%-70%.
  • 30% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales declining by 20%-50%.
  • 18% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales declining by 5%-20%.
  • 5% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales declining by 0% – 5%.
  • 7% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales flat.
  • 2% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales increasing by 0%-5%.
  • 12% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales increasing by 5%-20%.
  • 4% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales increasing by 20%-50%.

Capacity is a major roadblock for most restaurants with 48% of respondents operating at less than 50% capacity based on social distancing requirements. Another 36% are operating at less than 75% of capacity. 15% of restaurants are operating at more than 75% capacity. 

More than half of the respondents, 56%, believe if they continue to operate at their current capacity, they will be forced to close within nine months. This response is a return to more than 50% of restaurants believing they will need to close within the year. Only 24% of restaurants believe they will be able to stay open indefinitely.

Given current conditions, most restaurants — 80% of respondents — do not anticipate breaking even in 2020. Most, also 80% of respondents, have reopened their dining rooms. The restriction of alcohol sales significantly impacts a small number of business owners. When asked how the restricted sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. has affected their business, 61% of business owners responded that they either do not sell alcohol or report that the change hasn’t affected their sales after 10 p.m. This isn’t surprising since the majority of the ORA’s members are restaurants, not bars.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

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