December is often a busy time for bars and restaurants. But the omicron variant, the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, has undermined those hopes in 2021. The holiday season has been canceled. Instead of going out to party, people stayed at home. But some restaurants have lost income from an unexpected source: family meal time.
Before COVID, we would be full five nights a week at 5:15 p.m., ”said Scott Weiner, director and co-founder of the Fifty / 50 Restaurant Group, which owns Roots Handmade Pizza, a popular family-friendly place with four locations in the city. “We would do a full tour [of tables] with families before normal people start coming. The biggest difference for us is that we haven’t had a family business for two years.
Losing what is essentially one more restaurant change slashed Roots’ bottom line, Weiner says: He estimates it’s about 25 or 30 percent of the restaurant’s business. Although children five years and older may have received the Pfizer vaccine starting in the fall and boosters are now available, with the omicron surge in December, many parents were reluctant to have dinner with their children and were at risk of expose them to the virus before the holidays.
“People are afraid that their children will stay at home for two weeks,” he says. “It affects their livelihoods and their work schedules, and it really motivates people not to want to buy pizza.”
Doug Dunlay, one of the owners of 4 Star Restaurant Group, which includes family-run restaurants like Frasca and Crosby’s Kitchen where kids eat for free, says that while his business hasn’t been as badly affected as Fifty / 50’s, it still saw a significant drop in December. “Everyone crouched down, especially people with children,” he says. “They didn’t want their children [COVID-19] and not to see grandmother and grandfather. But 4 Star felt the loss of the holiday season much more; Dunlay says about 70 percent of those canceled.
Cold weather also played a role: Dunlay and Weiner say they have seen a drop in activity since it became too cold for alfresco dining.
Other restaurants in town have also felt the loss of the family business. A spokeswoman for Ed Debevic’s, which just opened in Streeterville in the fall, said that although the restaurant is so new, it hasn’t seen a contrast between COVID and non-COVID businesses. , there is probably a loss of activity. “I guess the families who come weren’t so worried,” she wrote in an email. “I’m sure there are a lot of families who haven’t come yet due to COVID issues, but due to our circumstances we haven’t seen the contrast in business.”
Weiner and Dunlay are convinced that if they can just hang on and survive both the omicron and the Chicago winter, better days will come. “I think people will come back,” says Dunlay. “What we’ve seen this summer is a flood of people excited to get back to somehow normal life.”