Aimee Buckeye is seeing fewer familiar faces at Bob’s Hamburg in Akron.
Customers just don’t want to venture outside in this winter’s biting cold.
“It’s tough,” Buckeye said Monday about the temperatures, which on Tuesday barely topped zero. “Tuesday, we just run with a staff and we hope to God that we get some brave souls.”
January is traditionally a slow month for the restaurant industry. But the so-called polar vortex and this new wave of subfreezing air is making it even slower for many places, especially restaurants that rely on an older clientele that doesn’t want to venture outside.
The weather wasn’t even that great before the holidays — a traditional boom time for restaurants. The National Restaurant Association warned earlier this month of an expected fourth-quarter sales dip for many eateries.
“As this cold stretch continues, restaurant sales are expected to be impacted,” said Jarrod Clabaugh, spokesman for the Ohio Restaurant Association in Columbus. “Whenever there’s a cold spell, whenever temperatures dip more than 10 to 15 degrees, restaurants typically see lower traffic.”
Of course, there is at least one exception. Fast-food restaurants sometimes thrive because people who don’t want to get out of their car are more than happy to pull up to the drive-through window, Clabaugh said.
Some of the restaurants in the Portage Lakes, a summer recreational area, have been particularly tested this winter.
Last year, John Nassos opened On Tap Grille & Bar at the Harbor on Portage Lakes Drive in Coventry Township.
Despite the scenic, lakeside view from the restaurant, it’s been a rough first winter for attracting customers, so much so that he reached out to other restaurant owners to find out their experiences.
“They’ve indicated that this has been a lot tougher than past winters,” he said.
On Tap also has locations in Bath Township, Cuyahoga Falls, Stow and Medina Township, and those sites also have seen a dip in customers.
Nassos prefers to look at the potential silver lining.
“It might be real positive because people get cabin fever quicker in this weather,” he said. “So it might draw them out earlier.”
At Bob’s Hamburg, which has been open for more than 80 years, Buckeye also is trying to stay positive.
“There’s got to be a thaw sometime,” she said.
Of course, some customers said the cold doesn’t scare them.
“There ain’t no weather that’s gonna keep me from eating good,” Ron Burch, 51, of Akron, said while sitting at the counter and waiting for his chili to cool.
And Bob Farnham, 64, of Marlboro Township, said he knows some people who are going out more.
“Just to get out of the house,” he said.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.