By Dale Venturini, President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association
As we get ready for another New England winter, it’s impossible to forget just how closely our hospitality community is tied to the mercy of Mother Nature. Whether it is rain, snow, heat or something a whole lot worse, no amount of planning and preparation can undo what the weather has in store for us.
In the winter, the snow is our biggest menace. The threat of just a few inches can prompt well-intentioned city and town planners to issue parking bans to help expedite the speed at which plow trucks can clear the roads.
But in major cities, street parking may be the only parking for restaurants and take-out spots. While some might think it’s the bitter cold that keeps our customers away, it’s often the lack of parking created by these bans. A parking ban issued in the name of convenience, not safety, can have a devastating impact on the bottom line.
In the summer, the mere mention of rain in the seven day forecast will cause people to dramatically alter their plans, even if the day the rain is predicted is still seven days away. If a meteorologist describes the weather as partly cloudy instead of partly sunny, the phones start ringing off the hook with concerns from guests with reservations.
In the past, the RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) has routinely engaged with emergency planning officials and local meteorologists about the impact their decisions can have on business at our restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality-based businesses. They’re always receptive to our thoughts, and we greatly appreciate their concern.
Still, there are some weather events that represent true emergencies. Regardless of what we hope will happen, the only option is to wait out the worst Mother Nature has to offer. Rhode Island, and the Eastern coastline, experienced this with Hurricane Sandy on October 29.
As Sandy approached, many of our most-treasured destinations made the only sensible decision — board up and wait. Many escaped with no damage or just minor damage. Others had to throw away ingredients after losing power. But, not every establishment was so lucky.
Some establishments sustained a devastating blow, unable to withstand the fury of the local wind and waters which usually provide a picture-perfect setting. The good news is that it looks like these establishments will be able to rebuild. It will take not only time but also dedication and commitment. Those are two traits which I’m proud to say permeate Rhode Island’s hospitality community.
Hurricane Sandy serves as a critical reminder that no matter how much planning we do or how many discussions about preparedness we have, Mother Nature has complete control. Our responsibility is to make sure we are ready so that our employees, our guests, and the physical buildings where our restaurants and hotels are housed will be as safe as possible. Hopefully it will be years before we see another storm of this magnitude again.