Latest ORA poll shows 56% of Ohio restaurants still struggling to make ends meet

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DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The numbers are in and more than half, 56 percent, of Ohio restaurants say they might be forced to close in nine months if they maintain their current capacity.

Eighty percent of restaurants polled by the Ohio Restaurant Association said they won’t break even in 2020.

The ORA said the restaurant industry is Ohio’s second largest employer and their latest Business Impact poll showed a quarter of Ohio restaurants are operating with less than half of their staff employed pre-COVID.

Monday afternoon in Dayton, several tables of people enjoyed lunch at the Spaghetti Warehouse. But the restaurant’s manager, Kelly Byrd, said their used-to-be-busy weekends are still a struggle.

“There’s not a lot of events down here so no drive-in traffic, there’s nothing happening at the Schuster Center, no Levitt Pavilion, no Convention Center, so it does have a damper on our sales over the weekend,” said Byrd.

He said carryout orders are still a lifeline, and the ORA President, John Barker, said that’s the case statewide and will continue to be crucial for businesses to stay open.

“Sales are already down, and as it gets into colder weather and you lose your patio, that puts even more pressure on your business, so they’re worried about being able to survive and keep people employed,” said Barker.

Barker said the majority of restaurants not in the pizza or fast food industry are seeing sales down anywhere from 20 to 70 percent. He said right now, the ORA is working with both parties in Congress, trying to get them to come together for a second COVID relief bill.

“We did get the paycheck protection program in the summer, and it kept hundreds of thousands of people employed,” said Barker. “We only got though, the equivalent of eight weeks of support and this is now six plus months into the government mandated closures or at least severely restricted business.”

Both Barker and Byrd said the continued support, whether that’s in-person dining or delivery, is necessary to keep the 585,000 restaurant employees in Ohio with a paycheck.

“If it wasn’t for carryout business, they’d have to rely only on dine-in sales and that would be hard,” said Byrd about his staff.

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