Much like the storm that has refused to leave the Texas Gulf Coast, Hurricane Harvey is expected to have a prolonged negative impact on Houston’s restaurant scene.
Even long after the waters have receded, industry experts expect that customers will be too focused on rebuilding to dine out in the coming months. “It’s going to have a major impact on the industry,” financial analyst Bonnie Riggs told CNBC. “Even if these restaurants are able to be open or if some are able to open up later on down the road, the demand is just not going to be there.”
Pointing to what will likely be tens of billions of dollars in rebuilding costs for residents and businesses along the Gulf Coast, Riggs also told CNBC that many consumers in the area just won’t have the extra cash to spend at restaurants while they’re trying to rebuild their homes and lives.
Outside of the damage, restaurants may also face a staffing shortage in the coming months as people are displaced from their homes. According to the Houston Press, some employees at Heights restaurant King’s BierHaus have lost everything in the floods. “They lost vehicles, got stranded. I have one employee that took four feet of water in his apartment,” Sitter told the Press. “They can't buy a new car. If they don't have a car, they're losing their ability to get back to work." On Labor Day, Sitter will host a fundraiser at his restaurants where all proceeds will go directly to affected employees and their families.
At present, most restaurants across the city are in the earliest phases of assessing the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, which means that the full extent of the storm’s economic impacts on the city’s restaurant industry will likely take weeks to fully understand.