Restaurants see opportunity in fall shoulder season
October 21, 2016
Snow is accumulating at the tops of the mountains, Parkites are beginning to dust off their ski gear, and after a long summer, the town seems a little mellower.
It's the fall shoulder season in Park City.
In the past, that meant restaurants all over town would be closing their doors until the bustle of ski season arrived. There simply wasn't enough business to justify staying open.
That trend, however, has changed. Those in Park City's restaurant industry say they no longer see a sharp decline in profits this time of year, and more of them are choosing to stay open through the shoulder season, or only curtailing their hours instead of closing down.
"Back in the day, the fall was super slow and it was quiet around town," said Ginger Ries, executive director of the Park City Area Restaurant Association. "That's not the case anymore. …The shoulder season business is growing."
Matt Harris, owner of the Tupelo restaurant on Main Street, is one restaurateur who's staying open through most of the fall. He shut down during the spring shoulder season for renovations, but sees an opportunity to make money this fall.
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"October has been really good," he said. "There are still a lot of people going through town, whether they're just coming up on the weekends or there's stuff going on at the hotels. I think there are a lot more people on the street and in town than when I got here about seven years ago."
Even some restaurateurs who are closing their kitchens for an extended period acknowledge that it's not out of necessity. Matt Baydala is the owner of Yuki Yama Sushi on Main Street, which will be closed through much of November. However, he made the decision in order to give his employees a much-needed break after a busy summer and before a hectic winter, not because he wouldn't turn a profit.
"I personally think we could stay open through November, no problem," he said. "Park City's transitioning to not just a two-season resort town anymore. I think summer, fall and winter are all in the cards now. Our numbers aren't really bad right now — they're actually pretty good. I'd stay open if the staff wanted to."
For Harris and Baydala, one of the starkest benefits of having the option to stay open is in employee retention. If you don't close during the fall — or if you leave the choice up to your workers — you don't have to scramble in November to find an entire staff.
"It's awesome. It's fantastic," Baydala said. "It's what every small business owner would love to have: Park City being year-round business so we could afford to keep all our employees and things like that. So this is great. If the trends continue like they have other the past couple years, a lot of us will be in a situation where we don't have to downsize staff in the fall."
Added Harris: "In Park City, (staffing) is one of the hardest things. You're always going to be looking for staff in November, but it helps soften the blow a bit."
Ries said the benefits that come from more restaurants staying open also extend beyond the food industry. Fall visitors being able to find a meal at a first-rate Main Street restaurant makes the town more vibrant. It helps present Park City at its finest, ensuring visitors are more likely to return.
"I think it's always important to maintain a consistent experience and service," she said. "While the tourist season might fall off a little bit in the fall, it's a good time for meeting planners and corporate groups to visit our area because of good lodging deals or packages. We always want to represent a good service and good amenities to our visiting guests."
For the Park City Area Restaurant Association's full list of restaurants that will be closed during the shoulder season, find this article on parkrecord.com.