Fare Share: Customers can help restaurants see light at end of the tunnel

John Barker
Guest columnist

Whether we like it or not, daylight saving time is inevitable, and our clocks – and sleep schedules – spring forward.

Most of us would rather enjoy the extra hour of sleep gifted to us in the fall, but there’s nothing like looking forward to longer days, blooming blossoms and patio season at our favorite restaurants.

John Barker is president and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association.

Warmer days ahead, more daylight, vaccinations, on-street dining in Columbus and loosening restrictions for wedding receptions, banquets, sporting events and the like mean restaurants might get an extra financial boost they need, as well.

These are reasons to be optimistic as restaurants work to rebuild guest counts and benefit from relief funding provided by state and federal governments. Loans, grants and tax credits hopefully will bridge the gap between closing doors and staying open a few more months as restaurants continue to operate under social-distancing requirements in Ohio.

From a recent National Restaurant Association survey, 86% of operators in Ohio said their sales were lower in January 2021 than in January 2020, and the same amount said their staffing levels are lower. Nearly 56% think their sales will decline this first quarter as opposed to last year, but that doesn’t stop them from moving forward.

A year into the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, restaurants are just as committed as ever to upholding the highest standards of safety and sanitization for their employees and guests.

Ohio’s restaurants continue to do their best to remain open and operate safely within the Ohio Dine Safe Order guidelines and adhere to the Ohio Restaurant Promise.

The Ohio Restauration Association recently launched a new campaign from the #DineSafeOhio initiative to encourage readers to “Take Your Bubble Out to Eat,” for which you can invite the people you live with or your social bubble to a favorite local restaurant.

And although Ohio’s restaurant, food-service and hospitality industry suffered greatly in the past 12 months, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, with your help.

The Ohio Restauration Association recently launched a new campaign from the #DineSafeOhio initiative to encourage readers like you to “Take Your Bubble Out to Eat,” for which you can invite the people you live with or your social bubble to a favorite local restaurant.

If you’re not ready to dine in just yet, getting takeout for your “bubble” is just as delicious and in the comfort of your own home.

For many of us, 2020 was a year of loss. For restaurant owners and operators and their employees, their businesses have been hit the hardest across many industries, with many nights spent wondering if they can make it another week.

Despite the economic hardships, 97% of operators said they made a charitable contribution, such as cash, food, space, in-kind or volunteering, since the pandemic began one year ago. That’s the can-do spirit of kindness that the hardworking leaders in the restaurant industry bring to our communities every day.

Let’s all “spring forward” together in 2021, dine out more often and help Ohio’s restaurants do what they do best: serve delicious food with great hospitality and generous hearts.

John Barker is president and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association.