Despite economy, area restaurateurs stay the courseWritten by Alissa Romstadt | | firstname.lastname@example.org
While shirts and shoes are still required, eating out in Northwest Ohio is becoming more casual.
“People are not dining out less, they’re just searching out better values,” said Greg Rufty, board president of the Northwest Ohio Restaurant Association.
“Where they might have been dining more frequently at a white table cloth type restaurant, they may be dining out somewhere more moderately priced.”
“I think the fast food and fast casual segments have seen an increase in business in the past year,” Rufty said. “Probably, the biggest effect has been on the restaurants you go to dine versus the ones you go to eat. People are eating more casual.”
In addition to the challenges posed by the economy, summer is also the slow season for many restaurants, according to Chris Kamilaris, owner of Georgio’s Café International.
“June, July and August are our slow months,” Kamilaris said.
“The economy is not helping very much, especially in Toledo with the unemployment rising so high. It came on at the worst time; the time of the year that is slow anyway.”
But with a strong start to the year and a loyal customer base at lunchtime, Georgio’s is on track to break even with last year.
Unfortunately, mom and pop restaurants are among those most hurt by this downturn. Rufty has done consulting work for many people who were not in the restaurant business, but thought it would be fun to open a restaurant.
“It’s a very tough industry. When you mix that in with tough economic times, those who aren’t based and experienced in this industry are not able to weather it,” Rufty said.
But while it may seem that a lot of restaurants are closing, “the names that Toledoans are familiar with are still flourishing,” he said. “Restaurant families that have been here and run successful restaurants for a long time have experienced these ebbs and tides in the economy and they know they just need to make it through it.”
In his 23 years at Georgio’s, and 33 in the restaurant industry, Kamilaris has lived though his share of these cycles.
“You always go through good times and you always go through bad times. Back in 2001 was another crush. It was another cycle and that was eight years ago. It’s the same thing now,” he said.
“People come here for the food, the service and the ambience. And that’s what we’re known for. If you give the people what they want, they’ll come and find you,” Kamilaris said.
“Northwest Ohio has always been very supportive of its restaurants and we’ve got several families that have a long standing in our communities,” Rufty said.
“Those operators continue their course with their business plans,” he said. “This downturn will turn around like it’s done in past times. Those who have run their business on the steady course through good and bad times are the ones you continue to see flourish and will continue to flourish long into the future.”