Chicago businesses are battening down in preparation for the subzero temperatures forecast for Wednesday. Restaurants are bracing for an onslaught of delivery orders. Construction projects are grinding to a halt. And businesses large and small are sending employees home with their laptops and directions to work from home.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Chicago employees got an email over the weekend encouraging them to work from home this week if weather conditions make their commutes unsafe. Mondelez International, the Deerfield-based maker of Oreo, Ritz, Triscuits and other brands, has a flexible working policy and was encouraging employees to decide with their managers about whether to work from home or the office.

Other businesses were having similar discussions with employees.

The closings will temporarily dampen the local economy, but commerce should snap back quickly when temperatures rise later in the week, according to Scott R. Baker, associate professor of finance at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Hourly workers will feel the lion’s share of the impact if the businesses they work for close up shop during the cold stretch.

“There’s going to be some effects, but for an economy the size of Chicago, it’s not going to be too noticeable,” Baker said.

Here’s how Chicago businesses are preparing:


So far, Chicago restaurants haven’t announced plans to temporarily close for the bitter cold, but some are reducing staffing levels on Wednesday because they don’t expect many customers, said Adam Ochstein, CEO of Chicago-based StratEx, which provides human resources services to restaurants.

But people who won’t brave the deep freeze to go out to eat may order in, he said, which could put a squeeze on delivery services if drivers don’t make it to work.

“Restaurants that deliver will be hammered and turn away business based on not being staffed to handle it,” Ochstein predicted. Even on Saturday, when it wasn’t nearly as cold, he ordered a pizza from Domino’s and was told the wait was three hours.

Evan Gold, executive vice president at Planalytics, a consulting firm that helps businesses manage the impact of weather, said traffic at restaurants is expected to drop 5 percent in the Chicago market this week, while usage of delivery services should rise.

All Chicago eateries that are part of the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group will offer free delivery Tuesday through Thursday of this week, the company said.