Most Ohio Restaurants Do Not Anticipate Breaking Even in 2020, According to New Poll

Almost a month after restaurants have been allowed to reopen, the Ohio Restaurant Association says most owners "are still operating at less than 50% of sales" versus last year

click to enlarge Pizza from Over-the-Rhine's A Tavola - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Pizza from Over-the-Rhine's A Tavola

The Ohio Restaurant Association — a 100-year-old organization whose goal is "advancing and protecting Ohio’s restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry" — has been conducting weekly polls to evaluate the health of the state's restaurants and the ongoing impact of COVID-19.

Gov. Mike DeWine gave restaurants the go-ahead to open outdoor dining on May 15 and indoor seating on May 21. Since then, ORA says eight out of 10 have returned to serving guests, but that most owners report they are operating at less than 50% of sales, compared to the previous year. 

And 79% of restaurant owners said they don't expect to break even in 2020.

“Sales at Ohio restaurants are improving incrementally each week, which is good news, but customer traffic remains low for most sectors of our industry,” said John Barker, president and CEO of the ORA, in a release.

He noted that pizza places and fast-casual operations seem to be doing the best — especially with carry-out and delivery — but that dine-in destinations are having a difficult time.

"Restaurants that rely primarily on dine in are struggling to rebuild sales due to capacity restrictions and some reticence among consumers due to COVID-19 concerns," he said.

Their survey from May 31-June 9 also showed:

  • 80% of Ohio restaurants are currently open — up 10% from the week prior — and 9% more plan to reopen soon
  • 65% of restaurants are operating at year-over-year loss of 20% to more than 70%
  • 47% of restaurants are selling to-go cocktails, meal kits or take-and-bake dishes to help offset their losses
  • And most restaurants will continue to offer carry-out and delivery, even though their dining rooms are open

Recently, several Greater Cincinnati restaurants have shuttered their doors — at least for the time being. This past week, A Tavola OTR and Harvest Pizzeria in Over-the-Rhine both announced they would be closing for the time being. 

That being said, there have also been several new restaurants that have opened during the pandemic.

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