Food News

How Bad Did the Frost Bite Into Super Bowl Week Dining Business? Depends Who You Ask.

If you were happy enough to see last week's nasty weather keep the unruly Super Bowl crowds out of town -- or safely contained in their hotel rooms -- for a few extra days, well, you probably don't own a restaurant. Or maybe you own a restaurant inside a hotel.

Either way, the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association wants to find out just how well the big weekend lived up to the hype, and today, says their executive director Ed Griffin, they're sending out a survey to their 900 member restaurants, to determine, "relatively scientifically," how satisfied they were with business last weekend.

"I think that a lot of poeple were anticipating the Super Bowl being almost a lifesaver for them after living through 2010's economic conditions," Ed Griffin says. As it happened, he says, what they've heard at GDRA is that most restaurants enjoyed a "slight to moderate bump in increased dining on Saturday and Sunday, especially for catering."

"People were so delayed," Griffin says. "If Jerry Jones says he filled the stadium, they weren't all out-of-towners. A lot of people couldn't get into town in time to make an impact on the restaurant industry."

A few anecdotal responses back that up, that it was a disappointing week -- unless you were catering for a party or a hotel.

"Catering was a big part of the Super Bowl this year, one, because of the weather, and two, because so many people were holding parties," Griffin says of events drawing in new folks just from outlying parts of Texas.

When I spoke to Spiral Diner's Sara Tomerlin earlier this week, she said the crowds, of course, weren't huge during the worst of the week's weather, but that they opened for brunch both Saturday and Sunday and stayed busy both days -- even with a celebrity appearance by rapper-producer Jermaine Dupri.

On the high end of the dining scene, Nana's PR rep Susan Friedman offered a totally upbeat response by e-mail, that "Hilton Anatole was one of the host hotels of the NFL, and Nana was very successful throughout the week with private parties and reservations."

But the way the week played out at sister restaurants Bolsa and Smoke -- two spots heavily represented in dining recommendations for out-of-towners -- might be the most telling. In a brief call, Chris Jeffers told me he spent the weekend at Smoke, which was slammed catering those star-studded events for the Hotel Belmont next door. But he suggested I reach his co-owner Chris Zielke, who spent the weekend at Bolsa where, Jeffers told me, "we took a bath on everything."

I couldn't reach Zielke after a few tries, but this afternoon Bolsa manager Sean Kenneavy offered a measured echo of Jeffers' estimation: "The turnout was less than pleasing," he said.

"Our expectations were high, but it was really going to be hard to tell because Dallas hadn't really dealt with something like that before," Kenneavy said. "The weather weakened our resolve a little bit."

Kenneavy said Bolsa had to stay closed on Tuesday because it was too dangerous for the staff to get in -- even for a Wisconsin native like himself. Griffin at the restaurant association agrees that was the deal all over the place, which is why their survey's only going to ask about Saturday, Sunday and Monday, when the weather should've been good enough to open.

Griffin says GDRA's survey's going to account for the difference between catering and on-site business, asking each restaurant to rate their happiness with the weekend's business on a scale from one to 10. It may not offer much sense of how much money that storm cost us, but, Griffin says, "The simpler you can make these surveys, the higher the probability you'll get a response."

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Patrick Michels
Contact: Patrick Michels