Maggie Grant of Café Italia said the downtown New Glasgow restaurant was closed for a day and a half last week because of the weather. “It’s affected us as we had to close all day Tuesday and part of Friday. It’s definitely taken a little bit of business.”
Gordon Stewart, executive director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, said winter storms and other extreme weather events affect many businesses, but are an especially “double-edged sword,” for restaurants.
Along with losing business, he said, restaurant owners are also stuck paying the full cost of opening – staff wages, heating costs, food waste – “whether you have one person in the place or 50 people.”
He said fully licensed restaurants that serve more than two meals per day often open right after the worst of a storm to try to recoup lost income.
“A bad weather day is a big loss day without question,” he explained.
The two snowstorms caused many closures locally, including stores, offices and schools, due to heavy snowfall amounts and blowing snow that affected visibility.
At Sharon’s Place in downtown Pictou, owner Sharon Stewart said she closed her restaurant for two full days. “Normally we wouldn’t close,” she said. “But on Friday we couldn’t get out of our own yards because the streets weren’t plowed.”
In Westville, Barb’s Family Diner owner Beth Purvis said she was also forced to close because she couldn’t get in to her business. “On Tuesday we were closed in the afternoon and we opened later in the day on Friday.”
But she said she’s pleased with the efforts of town workers who have since cleaned most of the snow away so patrons can access her restaurant easily. “The Town of Westville has done an awesome job.”
“Most of our clientele are seniors and if the streets are cleaned up and if they can come in without going over snowbanks, they bring their business here,” she said.
Grant said the amount of snow and the condition of sidewalks likely keeps some people at home, causing restaurants to lose some customers.
“It affects the street traffic – people grabbing a coffee – we’ve seen a little bit of a decline,” she said. “It’s harder for people to get around.”
Stewart said storm closures cause quite a bit of food waste, too. “We throw away a fair bit of food,” she said, adding that she likes to serve only the freshest fare.
Purvis also had to throw out food. “We do everything fresh here every day, so there was a lot of food loss. You can’t do anything about it.”
– With files from Metro Halifax