In Feb. 5 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Reporter
Several of Russell County's premier dine-in restaurants agree that business, despite the economic downturn, has stayed about the same for this time of year, according to owners, managers and workers at the businesses.
Connie Miller, manager at The Porch Restaurant in Russell Springs, said her restaurant has stayed busy all winter and that she has not made any alterations to her menu due to the ongoing recession.
Miller said commodity prices have risen the past few months, though, and that has had an effect.
"It makes food cost a little higher," she said. "But that's the way it goes."
She said that back during the summer, when gasoline was $4 a gallon, service charges were placed on delivery trucks, another hurdle that had to be taken into account before gas prices fell late last year.
"I have seen a little bit of a drop in business but it has basically been good," Miller said. She said she believes the area has been spared of some of the bad fortune that has went on around us.
"I can't say that I can complain because business has been good," she said. "I guess we're blessed to have the business we've had."
Billy Guthrie, owner of Guthrie's on the Square in Jamestown, said it was hard for him to judge if business had been hit because they have only been open in their current location just over a year.
"We are busier this year than we were last year," he said. "That is a positive thing."
Guthrie said his restaurant has cut back on hours a little bit as well as running less-expensive specials that appeal to a wider group of people in hopes of jump starting business even more.
"We've made some adjustments," he said. "We have a $5 spaghetti special on Tuesday nights to try and get people to not stay home and come out and eat."
He also said he runs a $9.99 prime rib special, at times, to try and spring business as well.
Guthrie said the lower priced items had been popular so far, especially throughout the work week, whereas higher priced foods still appeal to customers on the weekend.
But Guthrie, too, said his commodity prices have risen.
"The last 12 months they've gone up dramatically," he said. "I'd say the last month or two they've stabilized. They are not going up any more but they are still ridiculously high."
Diana Hall, manager at Jamestown Cafe in Jamestown, said business at her restaurant, too, had been going well.
"We get a lot of locals," she said.
She said she hasn't taken any measures as far as changing menu items or their prices but that her commodity prices had risen as well.
"We've been here 12 years," Hall said. "Times have been tough for everybody but for this time of year it's been average."
Beth Brockett with The Meeting Place restaurant in Jamestown said business there had been good as well.
Brockett said the restaurant's Monday-Friday $4.99 lunch specials have become very popular with the dining public as has their breakfast menu, which they serve until 2 p.m. each day.
"A lot of our sales are for breakfast," she said. The Meeting Place, a Jamestown institution for 3 years, is now on their winter schedule and close early through the week but remain open later through the weekend.
She, too, said commodity prices had risen somewhat and had to be accounted for.
"We're doing alright for things to be as bad as they are," she said. Brockett said it was her belief that this area's restaurant businesses had not seen a drop in sales because the customers are so grounded in visiting the restaurants and that the community's are so tightly knit and supportive to local businesses. The Porch Restaurant, Guthrie's on the Square, Jamestown Cafe and The Meeting Place all will have Valentine's Day specials for couples interested.
The holiday, which usually provides a boost in business with couples out for the evening, falls on a Saturday this year, one of the restaurants busiest nights of the week.
Miller said her restaurant would be offering a prime rib special including a box of candy on the romantic holiday while Guthrie said he would be offering some fancier items on Valentine's Day but that the original menu would still be available as are reservations by calling in ahead of time.
Hall said her business would be offering a special of filet mignon and shrimp for two for $25 on Valentine's Day as well as live music from Ron Cowell. Brockett said The Meeting Place would also be having a Valentine's Day special of prime rib as well.
Nationwide, the restaurant business seems to be a weakening industry which employs about 9 percent of the U.S. work force.
According to media reports, U.S. restaurant operators reported a decline in same-store sales for the seventh consecutive month in December of last year, the National Restaurant Association announced.