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Area Restaurants Weigh Options as Matthew Approaches

Written By Scott Joseph On October 5, 2016


Central Florida restaurants are assessing their plans for the next couple of days as Hurricane Matthew begins to move into the area. A survey among several chefs and restaurateurs did not come up with a clear consensus or consolidated plans. Some plan to ride it out and stay open; others are taking a wait and see stance. Others, like Kevin Fonzo of K Restaurant in College Park, are being more cautious.

“As of right now, K will be closed all day Friday,” said Fonzo. He said there is a chance he’ll close Thursday evening, as well. “[I] do not want my staff driving in bad conditions late Thursday after shifts,” he said.

Ashley Lowry Brown, marketing director for Citrus Restaurant and North Quarter Tavern said that both would close Thursday at 3 p.m. and reopen Saturday at 4 p.m.

Clayton Miller, chef and co-owner of DoveCote in downtown Orlando, said that he and his staff are “evaluating what exactly we are going to do each hour.” The restaurant will be open Wednesday evening and Thursday for lunch. “We’ll see what the forecast is by tomorrow afternoon to make a call for Thursday PM and Friday,” he said in a message. “We will do everything we can to get up and open for Friday PM (assuming the coast is clear).”

“We are monitoring the storm to make sure our staff is safe and [will] close if need be,” said Scott Geisler, general manager of the recently opened 1921 by Norman Van Aken in Mount Dora. “As of now we haven’t made a final decision of which days we will be open or closed,” he said. As they confirm reservations, the staff are letting guests know that a decision to close could be made at the last minute if the conditions worsen and that someone will call if management decides to close. But, said Geisler, “Our first concern is our staff.”

Katie Walton, owner of The Whiskey, said the popular Restaurant Row spot would close early on Thursday and remain closed Friday. “We were not able to get deliveries after today [Wednesday],” she said, “so there will be some items out of stock.”

Having adequate supplies on hand is a delicate dance that restaurants face in a situation like this. Just as with the general public who descend on grocery stores to get supplies, restaurants can request extra orders and deliveries to stock up.

But it’s a gamble.

“As far as ordering,” said DoveCote’s Miller, “we’ve taken in already enough product to get us through the weekend. So if we o lose power, it could be a problem.

“But it’s a risk we have to take because if we’re able to open Friday and Saturday and there is difficulty getting product, then we lose sales,” he said. And that can be devastating, too.

K’s Fonzo: “I have been scaling down my deliveries in case of long term power outages, as I will be throwing away food not at proper temperatures.” He said that he is hoping to have power on Saturday so that he can open as a refuge for anyone without power who wants a meal and some air conditioning. If the power isn’t back up on Saturday, Fonzo said he would offer perishables to his staff to take home.

“We will have a generator to keep critical storage like our walk-in coolers going,” Said 1921’s Geisler. “We did adjust our orders because many distributors will not be delivering, which certainly makes things more difficult.”

Some businesses don’t have the option of closing. Christopher Giannone, assistant general manager of the Alfond Inn at Rollins, said food service there will focus on guests staying at the hotel. “We are planning on Friday being the worse of the days,” he said. “We will strictly cater to our in-house guests that are staying with us.” Even so, he said that instead of regular restaurant service at Hamilton’s Kitchen, guest will be served “soup kitchen style.”

“Power outage will be the only thing that truly affects us,” said Giannone.

Larger hotels are equipped with massive generators. Mary Deatrick, spokeswoman for Rosen hotels, said restaurants in most of the Rosen properties would be up and running throughout the weekend, fully staffed and with a plan to work around any electrical disruptions.

As in the past, Rosen hotels are offering storm rates for people moving away from the coast or locals who prefer to ride out the storm in a more secure structure.

However, said Deatrick, most properties were already fully booked as of Wednesday morning.

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