Editor's note: In the wake of Gov. Mike DeWine's March 15 order to close Ohio's bars and restaurants to diners because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, restaurants still were able to operate via carryout service and delivery. Check ThisWeekNEWS.com for updates about any new restrictions during the pandemic.
Entire restaurant groups have closed temporarily, bartenders have been locked out of neighborhood taverns and layoffs have occurred as restaurateurs grapple with the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Yet some restaurants have managed to survive after Gov. Mike DeWine's March 15 order for bars and restaurants to suspend dine-in services but continue carryout and delivery.
Graydon D. Webb, who rebooted the G.D. Ritzy's banner as a lone Ritzy's restaurant at 4615 N. High St. in Clintonville in September 2018, said he created a business model that weathered the storm fairly well.
Webb said that although sales took an initial 30% hit, they were halfway back and climbing by the second week of April.
"I haven't been disappointed in the traffic we've been able to get," Webb said, noting that he doesn't have a drive-thru.
He said he has found most of his customers want off-premises dining, and third-party meal-delivery services have been a big help getting meals to stay-at-home diners.
The business plan and neighborhood loyalty have been part of the winning formula: modestly priced burgers, hot dogs, chili, fries and assorted odds and ends -- all traveling well over a moderate distance.
"Our staff reductions have been minimal," Webb said. "We haven't let anybody go. We've reduced hours."
But the situation has been more dire for most restaurants as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
John Barker, president and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association, said the trade group surveyed hundreds of its members and others in the community and found that, by the end of the third week of March, 29% of operators temporarily had closed their restaurants, 1% had closed permanently and 9% had anticipated permanently closing within 30 days.
Barker said fine-dining restaurants, which rely heavily on alcohol sales to boost profit margins, appeared to be taking the biggest hit, with initial reported sales declines of 50% to 90%.
For example, the Hyde Park Restaurant Group and Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, both of which operate high-ticket units across several states, temporarily have closed their doors.
Casual restaurants that rely heavily on online sales, whether pickup or delivery, "are actually doing very well and probably will get closer to normal operations and sales more quickly," Barker said.
The ORA has been helping by offering webinars on such issues as taxes, human-resources issues, changes in laws and insurance and risk advisory.
"This is the time to get all of your paperwork and get organized," Barker said. "It's going to take some work, but it's going to be worth if it you want your business to survive."
Barker said restaurateurs should consider the government likely will lift orders in stages, much like it did in issuing enforcement orders when the pandemic became more urgent.
Meanwhile, some of the national players have been running nonstop commercials touting delivery and pickup and have public outreach efforts through social media.
Many local restaurants have offered price breaks on food, and some have offered grocery deliveries. Others have posted banners to remind customers they are open for carryout and delivery.
Jon Snyder, who opened Neighbor's Deli at 2142 W. Henderson Road in Columbus in 2009, said the pandemic cut his sales in half.
"So far, I plan on paying my employees," Snyder said. "I don't take anything from the government."
He said he has been planning financially for such an emergency.
"I learned how to scrape," he said.
In what could be an anomaly, sales were up and brisk at Terita's Pizza, 3905 Cleveland Ave. in Columbus, which recently added a new staff member.
"We're busier than ever," general manager John Koontz said.
At Yogi's Hoagies & Dairy Bar, 1274 Morse Road in Columbus, open since 1977, business has dropped 30%, said Skip Apple, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Gloria.
Skip Apple said he has not had to lay off any employees, but he has decreased employees' hours.
"My wife and I are doing most of the prep work," he said.
Everyone from their landlord to their purveyors have offered deferred-payment plans, but thus far the Apples have been fortunate enough to decline.
"Everyone has been excellent," Skip Apple said.
Sales also have declined by 30% at Pizza Primo, with locations at 895 High St. in Worthington, and 475 S. State St. in Clintonville, owner Eric Rummel said.
At his Worthington shop, his relationship with Porch Growler across the street is on hold, as are catering opportunities with Worthington Schools.
He said he cut back on hours for some employees but maintained hours for senior staffers with more financial obligations.
"I can hang tight another couple of months, for sure," he said. "Obviously, safety is a concern."