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The survey found only about a quarter experienced a sales jump between March 8 and March 14 compared with the previous year.

DeWine issued a statewide stay-at-home order on March 22, which means sales likely dropped significantly across the board since then.

“Those restaurants that could quickly adapt to carry out or Columbus News delivery – or that already had strong out-of-restaurant programs in place – saw modest increases in the first week,” an Ohio Restaurant Association news release said.

About half of respondents said locations were closed, and 44% of those that remained open said sales were down 20% to 50% compared with the same period in 2019.

But in some cases, even reduced sales are enough to keep the lights on.

“We’re down a lot compared to what it was when we were offering dine-in, but we’ve been doing enough to justify staying open,” said Wes Wunderlich, co-owner of the Starliner Diner in Hilliard.

Restaurants already operate on razor-thin margins, and some decided that smaller profits weren’t worth the cost of staying open.

“We kept our seven stores open for the first week of the dining room ban,” said Rob Hoersdig, Director of Operations for CLB Restaurants, which operates Matt the Miller Tavern and Tucci’s locations in central Ohio. “At the end of the week, we had to answer a couple of tough questions: Why are we doing this, and what is the end game?”

When CLB’s managers looked at receipts from the first week, they didn’t feel it was worth putting their employees at risk of infection.

Local Roots in Powell is taking in roughly a quarter of its revenue from before the pandemic, owner Jessi Iams said.

“It isn’t going to pay all the bills, but it pays the employees,” she said, reflecting the attitude of many restaurant owners. Even if they can’t turn a profit, they can still keep paychecks coming to some workers.

Local Roots shuttered for a week after DeWine’s order, which Iams said gave workers the chance to weigh their options. The farm-to-table restaurant then brought back staff for five days a week to fill carryout orders, and plans to offer delivery.

“When we start delivery, I’m hoping I can get more servers in here and they can make enough money to pay their bills,” she said.

Iams wants to maintain the operation even during the downturn and hopes that keeping the restaurant open will help Local Roots get everything back up and running once the ban on dine-in service is lifted.

To maintain their customer base, restaurants have Press Release Distribution Services In Columbus added new services and perks. Many now offer delivery. Delaney’s, for example, will deliver to customers within 5 miles of one of its two locations.

The outbreak also gave Delaney’s the push it needed to offer online ordering and sell gift cards.

“We had the capability to do that but never turned it on,” owner Jeff Miller said.

He hopes that Delaney’s will emerge as a better restaurant on the other side of the pandemic, thanks to those adaptations.

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