A Table Outside? More Diners Say No Way
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A Table Outside? More Diners Say No Way

Restaurants say heat waves, smoke have hurt their outdoor dining business

By HEATHER HADDON
Tue, Aug 15, 2023 8:32amGrey Clock 3 min

Stretches of severely high temperatures across the U.S. are taking a toll on restaurants.

Customers are avoiding patios during heat waves, cutting into a key source of summertime sales for many restaurants, owners said. Visits in July and August declined from earlier in the year, industry data showed, with chains including Chuy’s and Cheesecake Factory reporting a decline in outdoor business this summer.

“No one’s sitting out in the patio at 100 degrees,” Steve Hislop, chief executive of Texas-based Chuy’s, said during an Aug. 3 earnings call.

Utility expenses are also rising as restaurants run air conditioning at full blast for long stretches of time, operators and industry groups said.

Temperatures climbing to the highest levels in recorded history this summer have hurt hospitality, sports, agriculture and many other businesses. In states such as Texas, weeks of days topping 100 degrees are expected to reduce overall economic productivity.

Restaurants are contending with heat and smoke as many operators are fighting for sales from cash-strapped consumers, and dealing with high inflation in food, labour and other costs.

Diners overall at restaurants in Arizona, Florida and Georgia dropped between 6% and 8% in the first part of August compared with last year’s period, according to OpenTable. The reservation tech company also recorded diner declines in other states running hot this summer, including Texas and North Carolina.

“This summer does feel different,” said Kelsey Erickson Streufert, chief public affairs officer for the Texas Restaurant Association trade group. “It’s a little tougher to get people to come out.”

Employees working at restaurants and bars dipped 1.5% in July compared with the month prior, with steep declines in cities such as San Antonio, New Orleans and Phoenix that recorded high temperatures during the month, according to Homebase, a small business workforce app. The declines likely stemmed from extreme temperatures disrupting consumer spending and foot traffic, Homebase said.

Worker advocates are increasingly making heat an issue in campaigns for improved conditions for restaurant workers. Some are pushing for better enforcement of existing standards and additional federal indoor heat regulations to provide employees breaks and water when temperatures rise.

“We’ve seen 86 degrees on the coolest side of the kitchen,” said Ariana Lingerfeldt, a cook at an Asheville, N.C., restaurant who is a member of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United worker advocacy group, during an Aug. 9 event pushing for more heat standards. “The air conditioner is unable to keep up with the equipment.”

Some restaurant operators said they are giving their workers more water and rest breaks, since kitchen temperatures can climb steeply despite air-conditioning.

Many restaurants set up patios in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, and have come to rely on them to drive summer sales. New York City, for example, is poised to make expanded outdoor dining in roadways permanent from April to November, and supporters say patios have helped restaurants maintain sales and jobs.

Now, some restaurant owners said those patio sales are drying up when temperatures surge, or wildfire smoke blows.

“When the sun’s on it, it’s literally scalding out there,” said Marc Hochmuth, general manager of City Social restaurant in downtown Chicago, which has a patio. Hochmuth said his business dropped about 20% overall when temperatures soared this summer.

Zoe Dean-Neil, a 20-year-old Pennsylvania resident who was on vacation in Chicago in August, said she opted to eat inside in the air conditioning after a day walking around in the heat. “I don’t want to sit outside and sweat,” she said.

Smoke drifting into the U.S. from Canadian wildfires also affected business at restaurants in parts of the country earlier this summer. John DuBuque, a 31-year-old management consultant from Chicago, said he tried to have a glass of wine outside during one heavily smoky period in the city, and regretted it.

“It was not the vibe,” said DuBuque, who said he now makes more outdoor dining decisions based on the air quality index.

Restaurant owners are trying to work around the weather. Sue Rigler, owner of Hundred Mile Brewing Company in Tempe, Ariz., said she is misting and putting extra fans on her outside beer chilling units to keep them cool. She has also cut back on labor in response to slower sales that she attributes to the heat.

“July was a really hard month,” Rigler said. “We finally got a break at 108, and they call that a break.”

Tom Hutchinson, owner of La Posta de Mesilla and Hacienda de Mesilla in New Mexico, said his hotel and restaurants are promoting cold beers and margaritas to attract customers. He is also hoping to keep people coming to the outdoor space surrounding their adobe building at night when temperatures may fall to the 90s.

“We don’t have humidity in our state and you can tolerate that,” he said.

Longer term, restaurant operators are trying to adjust to more climate-driven variables.

Avram Hornik, owner of the FCM Hospitality group of restaurants, bars and outdoor pop-up venues in Philadelphia, said his sales are down 30% this summer because of weeks of heat and rain. Smoky conditions in June didn’t help, he said.

“I look at it such as being a farmer. The weather controls all,” he said.



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New York Watch Auctions Record Uptick in Sales in the Face of Market Slowdown
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Luxury watch collectors showed ongoing strong demand for Patek Philippe, growing interest in modern watches and a preference for larger case sizes and leather straps at the June watch sales in New York, according to an analysis of the major auctions.

Independent and neo-vintage categories, meanwhile, experienced declines in total sales and average prices, said the report from  EveryWatch, a global online platform for watch information. Overall, the New York auctions achieved total sales of US$52.27 million, a 9.87% increase from the previous year, on the sale of 470 lots, reflecting a 37% increase in volume. Unsold rates ticked down a few points to 5.31%, according to the platform’s analysis.

EveryWatch gathered data from official auction results for sales held in New York from June 5 to 10 at Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s. Limited to watch sales exclusively, each auction’s data was reviewed and compiled for several categories, including total lots, sales and sold rates, highest prices achieved, performance against estimates, sales trends in case materials and sizes as well as dial colors, and more. The resulting analysis provides a detailed overview of market trends and performance.

The Charles Frodsham Pocket watch sold at Phillips for $433,400.

“We still see a strong thirst for rare, interesting, and exceptional watches, modern and vintage alike, despite a little slow down in the market overall,” says Paul Altieri, founder and CEO of the California-based pre-owned online watch dealer BobsWatches.com, in an email. “The results show that there is still a lot of money floating around out there in the economy looking for quality assets.”

Patek Philippe came out on top with more than US$17.68 million on the sale of 122 lots. It also claimed the top lot: Sylvester Stallone’s Patek Philippe GrandMaster Chime 6300G-010, still in the sealed factory packaging, which sold at Sotheby’s for US$5.4 million, much to the dismay of the brand’s president, Thierry Stern . The London-based industry news website WatchPro estimates the flip made the actor as much as US$2 million in just a few years.

At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire
Richard Mille

“As we have seen before and again in the recent Sotheby’s sale, provenance can really drive prices higher than market value with regards to the Sylvester Stallone Panerai watches and his standard Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1a offered,” Altieri says.

Patek Philippe claimed half of the top 10 lots, while Rolex and Richard Mille claimed two each, and Philippe Dufour claimed the No. 3 slot with a 1999 Duality, which sold at Phillips for about US$2.1 million.

“In-line with EveryWatch’s observation of the market’s strong preference for strap watches, the top lot of our auction was a Philippe Dufour Duality,” says Paul Boutros, Phillips’ deputy chairman and head of watches, Americas, in an email. “The only known example with two dials and hand sets, and presented on a leather strap, it achieved a result of over US$2 million—well above its high estimate of US$1.6 million.”

In all, four watches surpassed the US$1 million mark, down from seven in 2023. At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire, the most expensive watch sold at Christie’s in New York. That sale also saw a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM52-01 CA-FQ Tourbillon Skull Model go for US$1.26 million to an online buyer.

Rolex expert Altieri was surprised one of the brand’s timepieces did not crack the US$1 million threshold but notes that a rare Rolex Daytona 6239 in yellow gold with a “Paul Newman John Player Special” dial came close at US$952,500 in the Phillips sale.

The Crown did rank second in terms of brand clout, achieving sales of US$8.95 million with 110 lots. However, both Patek Philippe and Rolex experienced a sales decline by 8.55% and 2.46%, respectively. The independent brand Richard Mille, with US$6.71 million in sales, marked a 912% increase from the previous year with 15 lots, up from 5 lots in 2023.

The results underscored recent reports of prices falling on the secondary market for specific coveted models from Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. The summary points out that five top models produced high sales but with a fall in average prices.

The Rolex Daytona topped the list with 42 appearances, averaging US$132,053, a 41% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, with two of the top five watches, made 26 appearances with an average price of US$111,198, a 26% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendar followed with 23 appearances and a US$231,877 average price, signifying a fall of 43%, and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak had 22 appearances and an average price of US$105,673, a 10% decrease. The Rolex Day Date is the only watch in the top five that tracks an increase in average price, which at US$72,459 clocked a 92% increase over last year.

In terms of categories, modern watches (2005 and newer) led the market with US$30 million in total sales from 226 lots, representing a 53.54% increase in sales and a 3.78% increase in average sales price over 2023. Vintage watches (pre-1985) logged a modest 6.22% increase in total sales and an 89.89% increase in total lots to 169.

However, the average price was down across vintage, independent, and neo-vintage (1990-2005) watches. Independent brands saw sales fall 24.10% to US$8.47 million and average prices falling 42.17%, while neo-vintage watches experienced the largest decline in sales and lots, with total sales falling 44.7% to US$8.25 million, and average sales price falling 35.73% to US$111,000.

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