COLUMBUS (COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST) — Dramatic sales declines are dropping and restaurant receipts are rising.
With the Covid-19 pandemic more than a year old, the latest Ohio Restaurant Association’s industry survey now looks at two-year comparisons back to 2019 since dine-in business was shut down statewide this time last year.
The results are promising. Just one-third of respondents said sales were down by more than 20% compared to the same period in 2019. That figure was as high as 75% at points during the pandemic and still was hovered around 60% in the January survey.
On the other end of the scale, 38% said sales were up compared to 2019.
The association said it’s the best figures they have seen in months. It’s also in line with what industry researcher Black Box Intelligence is seeing in its nationwide surveys.
Half of respondents said they anticipate breaking even in 2021. Though that figure is moving in the right direction, it does mean that half still don’t expect to make money.
That’s a message a group of Columbus restaurants and retailers are trying to spread in these coming weeks. The What’s Columbus Without Us? campaign spearheaded by Wolf’s Ridge Brewing Co., Tigertree, The Kitchen, Preston’s: A Burger Joint and Dos Hermanos wants to raise buy-local awareness.
As Wolf’s Ridge co-owner Bob Szuter told Columbus Business First, he feels optimistic about his business, but knows many others are still struggling.
The fear of closing is dropping as well, with 17% saying they only can last six months if there is no change in the current situation. That’s what 47% of respondents said in the January survey. More than two-thirds said they can operate for longer than nine months with no changes in the current situation.
But changes are coming. Spring weather allows those with outside seating to increase capacity – 74% said they expect business to increase in the second quarter. Vaccine rollout in the state has been aggressive and Covid-19 case numbers have been declining, which could lead to a pull back in operating restrictions.
Almost half the respondents – 48% – said they would not require employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine, but they would strongly encourage it and offer incentives to those who do. The Ohio Restaurant Association has suggested offering employees three hours of paid time to get the vaccine plus an additional day of paid time off.
Just 3% said they would require employees to get vaccinated while 49% said they would not and did not commit to incentivizing vaccination.
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