As leaves fall, so do expectations for restaurant recovery

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 5:23 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - After a year and a half of COVID, Noosh Nosh restaurant owner Anoosh Shariat is still waiting to exhale.

A summer that started with lifted restrictions is ending with lowered expectations.

”Well it’s amazing,” Shariat said. “We always thought this quarter would change, the next quarter would change.”

According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), the economic outlook for the restaurant industry remains “dire.”

”The delta variant impacted the dining behavior of 6 in 10 consumers,” NRA Vice President Mike Whatley said in a letter to the US Conference of Mayors, “causing roughly one in five to stop dining out at restaurants entirely.”

And as the delta variant continued to keep customers away, outdoor seating became an essential attraction.

With winter coming, keeping the outdoor dining spaces open is a must for the bottom line.

At Gustavo’s Mexican Grill in Norton Commons, where the outdoor dining area has grown to 21 tables, the heaters are already being prepared.

”We’ve got small propane tanks with the heater heads on top. We also have the tall towers,” Gustavo’s General Manager Luis Alvarez said. “That provides some heat. But it’s not sufficient. We also ask our customers to bring in blankets, thick coats to keep them nice and warm.”

Alvarez said that on a good weekend day, his outdoor seating can serve 600 customers, 75 to 80 percent better than the numbers of customers inside.

The National Restaurant Association is calling on mayors to keep the outdoors open to restaurants by extending permits issued during COVID and streamlining the process for new ones.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for restaurants to improve their business,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said Thursday. “Outdoor dining is one of the ways to do that.”

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