Downtown Dining Operators Enjoy Greater Success with More Accommodating Business Hours
By Mike Vannest
The downtown Gay St. Shopping District has seen a number of new dining options open and close during the last five years. While some have closed down, the majority have succeeded. The one common denominator for those businesses that have succeeded are longer hours and extended menus to accommodate the lunch, happy hour, dinner and late night crowd. While the common denominator for the ones that closed are the opposite.
“In a quickly evolving 18 hour city like Columbus, those operators that evolve with it and offer an expanded menus and hours , thrive while the old school, lunch only operators tend to fail.” David Bishoff, president of E.V. Bishoff Company said.
Since 2000, a number of dining options have opened their doors on Gay St., including Due Amici (2003), Tip Top (2007) and most recently Oliver’s on Lynn (2014). Each has thrived in the Gay St. area. In keeping their operations open from 11am to at least 11pm they allow themselves to be available for all the restaurant crowds, all of the crowds for the downtown Gay St., events such as Moonlight Market, Sunlight Market and the rechristened Rally in the Alley. In addition, all three restaurants benefit from shows at the nearby Palace Theater both before and after their events that bring in large crowds. Closing at 5pm or 6pm prevents establishments from enjoying the extra business.
“Our business model is to give everyone at just about every time of day a chance to enjoy our restaurant,” Yavonne Sarber, owner and operator of Oliver’s on Lynn said. “While a good portion of our business is the lunch time professional crowd, we also enjoy large happy hour crowds, dinner crowds and a solid late night business traveler crowd. In addition, we are open for brunch on Saturday and Sunday morning which gives us greater chance to gain business during the weekends.”
With the restaurants that succeed having the common factor of being open for 12-18 hours per day the dining places that have typically closed at 5pm or 6pm have largely failed. While some have succeeded, for example, Si Senor; Zen Cha Tea, Nosh, Custom Chef and most recently J. Gumbos have all closed. One could point to their limited menu of lunch time only meals and a closing time from 3pm-6pm. Missing one of the most important downtown restaurant dining times of 6pm-8pm.
“We have expanded our menu and our operating hours several times in our two years of business,” Sarber said. “Opening earlier on some days and staying open later has helped us increase our revenue in our second year. Going into our third year of business we are exploring the feasibility of adding more menu items and staying open an hour later on weekends to accommodate those that live downtown who want to hang out late and not deal with the overcrowdedness of some other establishments in Columbus. The market is definitely there.”
While we cannot predict the future profitability of having a restaurant in the Gay St., shopping area the best way a business owner can set their company up for potential success in the Gay St., Shopping district is to hold longer business hours and offer a larger menu. The Gay St., area will be one of Columbus’ next big destination in the coming months. With the completion of the Pearl Alley redevelopment and the finishing of the Edwards Communities apartments more and more people will be eyeing the after work dining and entertainment scene and the demand for longer hours and larger menus will increase.