Covid has forced many restaurants to close. But those who survive face a new challenge: extreme heat.
Restaurants across the United States, from the Pacific Northwest to Connecticut, find themselves ill-equipped to withstand high temperatures, forcing some to close for the safety of customers and workers. The same effect is happening in other parts of the world, UK pubs have closed during the sweltering days.
Employees working in the kitchens, such as those placed next to pizza ovens, for example, experience the brunt of the heat. “It’s hot in that kitchen for my staff who work there, it’s very hot, customers come in once they start to open the front door, it just sucks in the air conditioning and these wooden panels hold the heat and humidity, so it gets really, really hot in here,” Barb Court, owner of Maxi’s Food & Spirits in South Bend, Indiana, which closed for the first time due to high temperatures, told the TV station. WSBT in mid-June On a weekend in late July, Doogie’s, a Connecticut restaurant that does not have air conditioning, closed for the weekend, for employee safety as cooking surfaces reach between 300 and 350 degrees, Doogie director Kim Cornell told CT Insider.
Meanwhile, another Connecticut restaurateur said he closed his business in the middle of the day in part because he feared the high heat would affect refrigeration equipment.
In the Pacific Northwest, where air conditioning is not the norm, restaurants faced a week-long heat wave – with the temperature reaching 110 degrees – at the end of July. A pizzeria in Seattle said temperatures inside reached 108 degrees, The New York Times reported. Seeking to stay open as much as possible, some restaurants have either shortened hours, changed menu offerings from pizza to sandwiches that hold up well in hot weather, or turned to takeout.
But it’s not just restaurants that are feeling the heat. Extreme temperatures are also keeping customers indoors and away from outdoor restaurants and bars, further hurting business.
What are the oppressive heat solutions for restaurants?
Extreme heat is pushing some restaurants to invest in air conditioning. The owner of Double Mountain Brewery in Oregon told the New York Times that monthly energy costs jumped thousands of dollars during last year’s heat. But with cooling units costing up to $20,000, some restaurants are reluctant to make the expensive investment, just yet. Going forward, during sweltering days, one question raised is whether companies will decide to give workers paid leave when they are forced to close for weather reasons.