COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – According to Ohio restaurant industry leaders, the upcoming holiday season will cap off an already prosperous year for their company.
If restaurants aren’t already fully booked for this next week, they will be very soon. This coming week is historically the busiest period for dining, they said.
Workers at Worthington’s The Whitney House said that in the past two days, reservations have tripled.
“People have been starting to reserve the day before Christmas Eve. So our reservations are really high,” said Madison Woodruff, a host at The Whitney House.
They also said that the days before the long weekend had not been slow at all.
“We have long lists on the waitlist, people waiting an hour and they’re totally fine waiting that long just to eat here,” said Riley Woodruff, a host at The Whitney House.
The sisters claimed that this hectic period is enjoyable and beneficial for business. They also noticed that customers remained at their tables for extended hours.
“So usually people come in here, they’re just a regular like hour and a half. Like yesterday we had someone come in here and sit for like three hours because they just sit here and they just talk and, you know, just talk about their Christmas stuff. We’ve had a lot of people come in with presents, exchange presents. So a lot of people have just been sitting at their table for a lot longer,” Madison said.
According to the Ohio Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance, most establishments in central Ohio have started to notice this trend.
“I think people who are very festive and they want to go out and they just, you know, they don’t want to cook all the time,” said John Barker, the President/CEO, Ohio Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance.
Barker stated that nice dining is very popular at this time of year.
“They may put out some specials, a blue plate special, for example, something different. We’re also seeing a lot of drink specials. People are getting very creative with drinks and martinis are in this year,” Barker said.
He added that take-out businesses are growing in the days following the main holidays, and informal dining does well as well.
“The other thing we’re going to see is the day after Christmas and then right around new year’s, our takeout restaurants are going to be booming and typically pizza. Oh, my goodness. They just really do well,” Barker said.
According to studies conducted by their national group, 80% of Americans want to make spending quality time with friends and family a priority during the holidays, according to Barker. He acknowledged that the pandemic years were largely to blame, but food is still seen by many as the unifying element.
“They want to spend more time with their friends and family, quiet time, things like that. And so it’s interesting, as they say, we’re open to going out to eat and ordering out and having food delivered and all those things that, you know, allow them to do that,” Barker said.
According to Barker, 2023 marked a shift in the restaurant industry in central Ohio, with more establishments opening than closing. In 2024, he stated he anticipates seeing more of it.