Restaurant owners notice increase in customers as vaccines access grows

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WOODMERE, Ohio (WJW)– As COVID-19 vaccinations become more available, several local restaurant owners said they are seeing an increase in customers dining indoors.

At the Original Pancake House in Woodmere Monday morning, the dining room and kitchen were busy. It’s a sign customers are feeling more comfortable sitting down for a meal.

“We have been very busy, on top of the people coming to dine in, carryout and GrubHub, Uber Eats, those type of delivery services, almost put things over the top,” said restaurant co-owner Michael Frazin.

Frazin and his wife recovered from their COVID-19 diagnosis earlier this year. He said his sense of taste is not what it was before, but they are otherwise healthy.

Vaccinations play a key role, Frazin said, in business returning to normal. Currently, sales are around 80 percent of what it was this time last year.

“Hopefully, as the vaccine starts kicking in, more people will come out,” he said. “It’s great now. We get to see some of our regulars now and again, and it’s fantastic they’re starting to come back.”

(FOX 8 photo)

At Beckham’s B&M Bar-B-Que in Lyndhurst, the dining room is empty by design.

“I think for us it will still be a long time,” said co-owner Sharon Macklin. “I think for people to have more of the vaccine in them to feel safer and more comfortable coming out, I think we’re gonna have to wait.”

Macklin said they will not fully reopen their dining room in the immediate future.

Instead, the attention will focus on their growing carryout orders, and reopening their party and event space for smaller gatherings. Macklin said it is easier to clean and sanitize after an event than multiple diners coming and going from the restaurant throughout the day.

“We’re hoping that the trend will turn, and people will return just like they’re returning to the bars. And that they’ll return to socializing with family again and we’ll see and increase there,” Macklin said.

(FOX 8 photo)

Being busy also brings more challenges, including filling jobs. Frazin said he is having difficulty hiring open positions even with wages above $15 an hour.

“We cannot get employees,” Frazin said. “We have a manager job open. Really worried about opening 100 percent. I don’t know how we’ll staff.”

Customers said they enjoy going to a restaurant, some for the first time in months.

“I didn’t come out much because my immune system is very compromised. Now that I’m vaccinated and I’m finally finished with my treatment, I do feel more comfortable,” said customer and cancer survivor Jasmire Thomas-White.

Restaurant owners like Macklin said despite frustrations of the past year, she is hopeful things will get better.

“Our mission is to bless the food, set the right mood and get them out feeling good,” Macklin said.

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