Springfield is on pace to have more restaurant openings this year than each of the past three years, a sign of the rapidly improving restaurant market in Ohio.
So far, five new restaurants have opened in 2013: two Japanese steakhouses, Create a Crepe Cafe in Upper Valley mall, Planet Pressnell and the Hamburger Shoppe. The Springfield News-Sun checked Clark County Combined Health District records to find new restaurants opened in the last several years, but excluded renovations and any that were not free-standing operations.
“This year the job market for restaurants is expected to improve by 3.8 percent,” said Jarrod Clabaugh, spokesman for the Ohio Restaurant Association. “Retsurants are opening in existing spaces, places that closed during the economic downturn. They can move into places with equipment and furniture already.”
The Hamburger Shoppe opened a month ago on South Yellow Springs Street in the former Daniel’s Corner Q barbecue restaurant.
Owner Rex Berrien bought the building in August last year because he lives on that side of town.
“I was actually going to get a beauty shop and then when I bought the building, I was thinking I could make it an insurance place,” Berrien said. “But then I said, ‘Heck, I’ll turn it into what it already was.”
Berrien said he thought the barbecue restaurant didn’t have enough variety, so he chose traditional American fun foods. The restaurant serves hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, funnel cakes and fried candy bars. He expects to get an ice cream machine shortly.
“I wanted to give people what they wanted,” Berrien said. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day except Sunday, and he has already employed 10 people.
Clabough from the restaurant association said there is pent-up demand for restaurants that has been lingering since during the Great Recession.
“Ohio is set to grow more than neighboring states in restaurants this year,” Clabaugh said. “It’s an attractive market.”
Clabaugh said Ohio’s government has made it easier for restaurants to establish themselves, so there has been an increase in investments.
Five restaurants have opened between January and April, with the new Bay Breeze on West First Street poised to open this summer. The restaurant has a sign up soliciting job seekers.
In 2012, seven restaurants opened the entire year, two of which were Hot Head Burritos restaurants. Six of those seven have opened since last May.
In 2011, only five restaurants opened, including Popeyes’ and the now closed Scotty’s Fishin’ Chicken.
“The nice thing is when people are new, they need places to eat, so when new jobs come in, people need to feed those folks,” Clabaugh said.
The Springfield News-Sun is committed to covering small businesses and trends, focusing on local entreprenuers every Sunday.