What Should Restaurants Do When Record Deep Freeze Hits?
Many operators had to make the tough choice to close or reduce hours in the face of this week’s extreme cold snap.
Record-setting cold is freezing much of the Northern U.S. this week, forcing schools to shutter, the U.S. Postal Service to halt deliveries and, in many cases, restaurant operators to make the tough decision to temporarily close up shop or operate with reduced hours.
The decision balances the potential for lost profits with the need to be mindful of the safety of employees and customers when the temperature plunges well below zero, operators say.
“As a company, we asked our cafe managers and co-workers before collectively making this decision,” Milwaukee-based coffeehouse chain Colectivo Coffee Roasters posted on Facebook in announcing its plan to operate with limited hours this week. “Serving our customers while managing the health and well-being of all in our organization in the face of severe winter weather was thoughtfully discussed. Some staff were concerned about getting to work, some staff wanted to work and many customers wanted to get out of the house! All cafes that are open will have willing staff, while those that wanted to stay home are at home.”
Other operators are opting to capitalize on housebound customers with delivery deals.
Chicago-based multiconcept operator Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises is offering free delivery via Grubhub for all of its restaurants in Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul this Wednesday and Thursday. A number of the company’s restaurants, including Wow Bao and multiple M Burger locations, opted to shutter or close early during the cold snap.
Several pizzerias are closing or reducing hours to protect drivers from the freezing temperatures, including Lou Malnati’s, which plans to close early. Easy Street Pizza & Beer Garden in Chicago, however, is promoting a free delivery deal for Wednesday and Thursday.
“You eat the pizza, we eat the delivery charge,” the restaurant posted on Facebook. “Drivers still get the fee, but we pay it.”
Some operators, such as the spy-themed SafeHouse eatertainment concept, with locations in Milwaukee and Chicago, tried to remain on-brand when announcing closures.
“On Orders From Control: Due to extreme weather conditions, we have closed Your SafeHouse operations until Thursday at 11:30am. We are sorry to have compromised your mission, but look forward to seeing you as the temperatures thaw,” the restaurant tweeted.
Other operators put the decision to close because of cold weather up to their customers. Chicago coffee cafe Perkolator posted a Facebook poll Tuesday asking if they should open the following day.
“7 of you sadistic people (1 of whom lives in The Netherlands) said we should open,” the owners wrote. “174 of you wanted us to close … See you Thursday!”
A reminder to restaurateurs with robust social media campaigns, though: Keep in mind those preplanned tweets and Facebook posts when opting to close suddenly.
“We are CLOSED today,” St. Paul vegan restaurant J. Selby’s posted on Facebook. “Apologies if you saw our previously scheduled post about our wings.”