Local restaurants surviving hard economic timesWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Consumers are seeking more value for their money when eating out, according to local restaurateurs.
“Obviously, everything is a challenge now. People are not eating out as much so they are looking for a better value,” said Greg Rufty, president of the Northwest Ohio Restaurant Association. “Value is not just cheap, it’s economical and good food that is worth people spending their money on.”
The recession may have caused most consumers to reduce their spending, but it has not kept them from eating out.
A Gallup poll taken in December showed 60 percent of people surveyed said they had eaten at a restaurant one or more nights during the previous week. That number is similar to 64 percent in 2005 and 66 percent in 2003.
The number of Americans eating out one or two times a week dropped from 49 percent in 2005 to 42 percent today.
However, the frequent restaurant patrons dining out three or more times a week actually increased from 15 percent in 2005 to 18 percent in 2008.
Gallup learned that both lower- and upper-income consumers are dining out about as much today as they did three years ago. The poll showed that middle-income families had cut back on spending at restaurants.
“Consumers are turning to comfort food to feel better, such as basic traditional Midwestern foods: meat, potatoes and vegetables made with locally grown products. We are seeing an increase in business probably due to the value we offer,” Rufty said about the CityQ Barbeque on West Central and Johnny Rockets at Levis Commons, operated by the Marengo Group of Dillin Corp.
Tony Packo’s Cafes are also doing well, despite the current economic conditions, according to co-owner Tony Packo III.
“We had one of our better holiday and summer seasons in 2008,” Packo said. “First, we offer customers a lot of value with a good product at the right price. People are comfortable with our food and spending their money with us so we’re very grateful.”
Tony Packo’s Inc. operates five locations with the original restaurant on Front Street in East Toledo, Downtown near Fifth Third Field, another in Sylvania and at both of The Andersons stores in Toledo and Maumee.
Mancy’s restaurants are also doing well despite everything going on with the economy, according to co-owner John Mancy.
“It’s not going to be a boom year, but we’re doing pretty well. We have dedicated employees and offer a good value for diners in the Toledo market,” Mancy said.
The Mancy family offers a variety of foods at Mancy’s Steakhouse on Phillips Avenue in Toledo, Mancy’s Italian Restaurant and Shorty’s American Roadhouse both on Monroe Street, and the Blue Water Grille in Maumee.
John, Gus and Mike Mancy are all past presidents of the local nonprofit restaurant association, which represents hundreds of restaurants in the Toledo area and 14 counties in Northwest Ohio. Its members are also in the Ohio Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association NRA. Michael Gibbons, a resident of Sylvania and owner of Mainstreet Ventures, currently serves as NRA vice chairman. He will become chairman during the National Restaurant Show hosted in May in Chicago.
The Real Seafood and Zia’s restaurants at The Docks and Ciao! in Sylvania have seen some changes in their business, with customers looking for more value, according to Kevin Gudejko, director of operations for the restaurants owned by Mainstreet Ventures based in Ann Arbor.
“We’re trying to offer people more value for their money by negotiating special purchases from our suppliers and passing the savings on to our customers,” Gudejko said.
The Spaghetti Warehouse Restaurant, located Downtown on Superior Street for many years, increased its business by 4 percent in 2008 over 2007 sales, according to general manager Russell Ballew.
“We consistently deliver great food and service at reasonable prices. We have specials for families and offer several discount coupons to save customers money,” Ballew said.
The large restaurant also has three banquet rooms available for private parties, rehearsal dinners and receptions. It is one of 21 such restaurants across the United States in the Texas-based chain.
The Oasis, formerly known as the Campus Oasis, upgraded its facilities this year. It now offers Toft’s Ice Cream made in Sandusky, Suzie’s Smoothies, Dolce Coffee House, Mirage Grande Café and Cottage Inn Pizza and Grill.
The restaurant features three dining areas with traditional seating, coffee lounge, café seating on the second floor and a heated outdoor patio at Dorr Street and Secor Road across from the UT campus.
The Oasis offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night dining, with delivery available on all menu items serving the diverse tastes of its patrons, said Ben Klaiber, marketing director.