Ohio’s downtown restaurateurs and entrepreneurs survive one-two punch
By Terry Troy
Restaurateurs, entrepreneurs and small business owners in Ohio’s urban centers suffered a one-two punch at the end of last month. While many had plans of reopening after operations were closed due to the coronavirus, some sustained damage from the violence that occurred following what started out as peaceful demonstrations.
Many small business owners understand the anger behind those peaceful demonstrations, but many are also at a loss of words for the violence that occurred afterward, including the vandalism and looting of their businesses.
However, many are also still optimistic about moving forward with business plans in downtown areas.
“As business owners and entrepreneurs, we find solutions. That’s one of the things that is embedded in our DNA,” says Jon Manning, an entrepreneur who owns a sales and marketing company with offices in downtown Cleveland.
Manning, his wife Laura, and his partners Jenna Murphy and Jeremiah Perkins are moving forward with plans to open a new Caribbean-themed restaurant called Ujerk in Cleveland’s downtown. The scheduled opening is July 3, despite the site being vandalized and looted in the violence that occurred on May 30.
“The one thing that I loved, was that the very next day, the other businesses downtown and the entire community were working together to clean up and fix everything,” says Manning. “It shows the resilience of our community.
“Our downtown is going to thrive and entrepreneurs will find new ways moving forward, developing new strategies just like people did before the COVID-19 or the recent violence. We will find a way to navigate through these problems.”
Across the state, restaurateurs are still facing challenges. According to a recent survey from the Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA), 82% of owners/operators have reopened. Sales are down significantly but are improving. However, 78% don’t expect to break even this year.
According to the ORA survey, just over 22% of respondents think they will reach a break-even point this year. Most restaurateurs are still operating at less than 50% of sales versus 2019.
As restaurants reopen, sales continue to under-perform compared to previous years, but are beginning to level out slightly. For example, two-thirds of restaurants are down -20% to 90%, versus close to three quarters of restaurants responding a month ago.
Seven percent of responders to the ORA survey indicated that they will open dining rooms soon, while just over 10% have no plans of opening up indoor dining at this time.
When it comes to wearing face coverings, restaurateurs are basically split on whether it helps increase the confidence of guests; almost 54% say it does, while 46% say that it doesn’t.
Other findings from the ORA survey indicate that:
– 13.39% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales declining by more than 70%.
– 11.61% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales declining by 50-70%.
– 37.5% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales declining by 20-50%.
– 18.75% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales declining by 5-20%.
– 2.68% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales flat.
– 2.68% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales increasing by 0-5%.
– 9.82% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales increasing by 5-20%.
– 2.68% of restaurants are seeing their year-over-year sales increasing by 20-50%.