Restaurant owner Jason Smith has no illusions about making up the business he’s lost on recent days when his dining establishments have been closed because of nasty winter weather.
“People don’t go out and eat lunch twice the next day,” said Smith, who owns 18 Seaboard and Cantina 18 in Raleigh and Harvest 18 in Durham.
Smith’s restaurants were closed on Thursday – the third day in the past two weeks that their doors were shut all day. They also closed one night last week in deference to the weather.
“Our sales are down drastically, without a doubt,” Smith said.
The onslaught of snow and sub-freezing weather that has plagued the Triangle has been tough on just about everybody. But businesses that rely on customers coming to their brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants have had special challenges.
“It has definitely killed our business all week, and last week wasn’t great either,” said Lisa Kornstein, owner of the Scout & Molly’s clothing boutique in Raleigh’s North Hills shopping complex.
For many businesses, calculating whether to open their doors in spite of the elements is often a two-step process. Will customers show up despite the weather? And is it safe for employees?
Deciding is an art, not a science. The store’s location is a factor. So is knowing whether employees can walk or bicycle to work or have to rely on driving.
Sam Suchoff, owner of The Pig barbecue restaurant on Weaver Dairy Road in Chapel Hill, said he sometimes checks in with owners of nearby businesses on bad-weather days. But their decisions may vary.
“Sometimes they open and we don’t, and sometimes we open and they don’t,” Suchoff said.
But, he added, “if there is any question about it not being safe for employees, it’s a pretty easy decision to make.”
The Pig, in addition to closing three days over the past two weeks, has felt the weather’s impact in other ways. The restaurant, which relies on locally grown hogs, learned this week that the company that usually trucks in its hogs from a slaughterhouse on the coast wouldn’t be delivering.
“So we had to pay a different trucking company an extra $225 to come and do the delivery,” Suchoff said.
David Madison, co-owner of Stone’s Education & Toys in Cary, said he’s worried that on days such as Thursday, when his store was closed because of the weather, that his customers will find what they want online instead.
“This is painful,” he said. “We lose a lot of money every day we’re closed.”
Some of the establishments that did open on Thursday reported that business was brisk.
Zach Strother, general manager of the IHOP on Knightdale Boulevard in Knightdale, said power outages drove customers to the restaurant Thursday morning.
“We seem to be pretty steady anytime that it snows, when electricity’s out for people, they’re looking for warm food and we’ve got it,” he said.
However, the restaurant itself was closed for the better part of two hours Thursday morning because it lost power temporarily.
The Great Outdoor Provision Co. store in Cameron Village was in business Thursday, although it opened later than usual and planned to close early, as well.
“It’s important for us to be here,” said store manager Robin Hannon, who noted that customers who were without electric power had been in early Thursday afternoon seeking lanterns and fuel.
Winter apparel such as hats and gloves also have been in demand.
“We put a whole bunch of little kids in gloves yesterday – until we ran out,” Hannon said.
Meanwhile, Smith, the restaurant owner, is betting that people who have been cooped up in their houses will be eager for a night out over the next few days.
“I think this weekend is going to be huge,” he said.
Staff writer Kara Bettis contributed to this story.