Tonawanda News

February 2, 2014

Biting cold puts a freeze on restaurant business

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — From the Midwest to Webster Street, Old Man Winter’s heavy hand this year is taking its toll on restaurants’ cash registers and reservation books.

At the recently opened Webster Bistro and Bar, owner Rosemarie Bobel said the deep freeze has definitely made for some slower nights than normal.

“It’s been mixed, really. When the days were really, really frigid, we still had people coming in, but it was more people just from the immediate local area,” she said. “The really cold days, it’s affecting us.

“During the week, our business has definitely been cut in half.”

The homemade matzo ball and beef barley soups are lost on customers walking into Rascals’ NY Deli — because there just aren’t very many of them.

“After it starts getting really cold and the sun goes down, the people don’t want to come,” said Randy Smith, manager of the restaurant in the Cincinnati suburb of Blue Ash.

Across much of the eastern half of the country, bitter cold and snowstorms in recent weeks have put a chill on restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops, limiting the number of walk-in customers and shrinking tips. Some merchants report sales cut in half.

The January deep freeze wrought by the polar vortex in the Midwest, a big snowfall in the Northeast and abnormal cold and snow in the Deep South has moved many to hibernate.

Only four people picked at pancakes and eggs during what should have been the morning rush at American Table Family Restaurant, a Toledo diner, while the temperature dipped to 9 below Tuesday. The nearly 40 inches of snow this month is a record for January and more than what the city normally gets in an entire winter.

“Some of the regulars, I haven’t seen in a week and half, two weeks,” said owner Elton Bregu.

Viven McKinney, a retired postal worker, stopped in for eggs and coffee only because he had just dropped his wife off at work.

“Otherwise, I’d still be in bed,” he said. “I don’t like to be cold.”

Back in North Tonawanda, Cara Digulio, manager of Romeo’s on Webster Street, said the weather has taken its toll.

“Yes. It has cut it more than half. Right now, we only have [one] table, and I know it’s 6 p.m. and people eat later, but if it was nice out, we would be busy already,” she said.

Down the street, Bobel of Webster Bistro said she, like her customers, is just waiting for a thaw. The weekend warm-up was a good time to start, she said.

“As soon as the weather started to turn Thursday, we were full, and we are looking at having a good weekend.”