COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Columbus restaurants have all faced ups and downs in the last two years, but after a month filled with major money-making weekends, many said they are back on track and looking forward to the usually busy summer months.
Restaurant workers said it’s like night and day between last month and the same time two years ago.
“Thanks to the loyalty of our customers and the neighborhood, it kept us afloat these last two years,” said Phillip Skunza, manager of the Happy Greek restaurant in the Short North.
Walking through the Short North on a sunny Saturday afternoon, people are likely to be sitting in just about every restaurant, something not seen during the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were struggling, but like I said, we’ve been here 25-30 years now, so we have a pretty good following,” Skunza said. “We’ve built up a good customer base, so when that happened, they were all concerned about us, coming in to make sure we were going to survive.”
Skunza said during the pandemic, there were times when the High Street restaurant was really struggling. This year, Skunza said business in June was exactly what the business needed.
“It’s nuts, it’s total chaos,” he said. “The restaurant is full. We are buzzing around here like chickens with their heads cut off.”
It was the same thing at Local Cantina down the street, with managers there saying Pride weekend was their biggest so far in 2022, feeling for the first time like they truly made it out of the pandemic.
“I think that we are going to see a steady uptick in everything, especially with the convention center,” said Kalin Miller, kitchen manager for Local Cantina. ‘We’ll see plenty of things happening for us.”
Both restaurants are expecting business to boom from here on out.
“That whole month is basically our bread and butter, especially down here in the Short North,” Skunza said.
Miller said it’s not only great to see people back enjoying the food, but also lifts a giant weight off the staff’s shoulders.
“It was very scary at times because we have staff that depend on us to give them hours and if we don’t have the business, we can’t give them hours,” Miller said.
Some restaurant owners said they are still facing some lingering obstacles from the pandemic such as staffing shortages, but added if they can navigate the last two years, they can make it through this as well.