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Boston Restaurant Blog -- September, 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Restaurant Crash That Never Occurred

photo of Closed sign at Alumni Cafe, Quincy, MAOver the past several years, the number of restaurants opening in the Boston area has consistently surpassed the number of restaurants closing, and there were some months in 2013 and 2014 where the disparity was quite large. This, combined with rising rents and the opening of massively-sized dining and drinking spots from national chains and local restaurant groups had some in the industry worried, with the word on the street being that we were in a developing bubble that could pop at any time.

And then the winter of 2014/2015 hit.

With storm after storm pummeling the region in late January and February, the Boston area was basically at a standstill for well over a month and countless restaurants and bars were forced to shut down for a number of days during the period. And unlike businesses such as hair salons where customers can simply go in at a later date, the money lost to dining and drinking spots due to temporary closures is lost forever, which made more than a few believe that come springtime, there would be a rash of closures. March and April came and went, however, with relatively few closings, and the dog days of summer--which can be a particularly tough time for dining and drinking spots--passed with only a handful of places closing (and about the same number opening). Now it is September and with college students back in town and people returning from vacation, restaurants and bars are starting to fill up again and it seems like we may have caught a break this time around. Or have we?

In some ways, nothing has really changed since the devastating winter of 2014/2015; rents continue to rise at a rapid pace, the sheer number of dining and drinking spots has caused a supply/demand issue in some areas, with many spots empty even on weekend nights, and while the economy is better than it was a few years ago, it doesn't seem to be doing well enough for people to be able to dine out on a regular basis. So has the ripple effect of the snowy winter just been delayed? Or will the restaurant industry simply shrug it all off off and continue to motor along? No one really knows right now, but one thing is for sure--nearly everyone in the business is hoping and praying for a mild winter with lots of sunshine and little more than a few snow flurries mixed in.

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