Has this summer's heat affected patio traffic?
It's been a scorcher of a summer in Milwaukee, featuring extended, extreme heat waves and very little rain. And although the lack of precipitation is bad for farms, lawns and gardens, it's usually welcomed by festivals, outdoor venues and the owners of restaurants with patios.
But have the extremely high temperatures affected patio traffic, or are Milwaukeeans willing to eat and drink outdoors in 95-degree weather?
OnMilwaukee.com checked in with a variety of establishments featuring traditionally popular patios and asked if the patio scene was slower this year due to the heat. Turns out, responses varied quite a bit.
According to Tim Gordon, the front house manager at Horny Goat Hideaway, 2011 S. 1st St., business is up 40 percent this summer over last. Gordon attributes the growth in sales to the fact the bar and eatery is located next to water.
"One of the biggest factors in our favor is our boat slips. People still boat in the heat," says Gordon.
Gordon says they also offered a particularly light summer menu to complement sweltering summer temperatures. Fish tacos, chicken salad, lightly breaded chicken tenders and an heirloom tomato salad were all added to the menu.
However, Mark Beusing, the general manager at Hooligan's, 2017 E. North Ave., says the hot weather definitely drove away patio business.
"We have definitely been affected by the heat, especially for lunches," says Beusing. "It picks up a little bit at night because people don't want to cook. But people also don't feel like eating when it's really hot out either."
Hooligan's offered cold soups during the hot weather, like gaspacho and avocado soup.
"People drink less in the heat, too. Overall, consumption has gone down with the heat," says Beusing.
Marcin Ostromecki is a manager at The Harp, 113 E. Juneau Ave., and although he believes business was only slightly affected by the weather, he did notice a change in what people ordered.
"People have come out regardless. It's better some days than others, but for the most part – they still came out. They did drink more 'summery drinks' rather than a traditional beer," he says.
Perception has a lot to do with patio traffic, too. For people living inland, where the weather was even warmer, the businesses closer to the lake felt cooler and were therefore more appealing.
"A lot of people come in from Waukesha, so to them, it's actually cooler over here," says Gordon.
Kristin Godfrey, the marketing director for the Lowlands Group, says the patio at Cafe Hollander in Wauwatosa patio was more affected by the high temps than the patio at the Cafe Hollander on Downer Avenue.
She says Cafe Benelux, 346 N. Broadway, still attracted outdoor diners because the streetside patio is completely covered by an awning and provides total shade and the rooftop patio cools down in the evening.
Overall, however, the number of customers at Lowlands Group restaurants (Cafe Hollander, Trocadero, Cafe Benelux and Cafe Centraal) was the same. Godfrey says more people just sat inside.
"People just don't sit outside as much if it's above 90 degrees. And if they do, they're really tough," she says. "Our patios were quieter on really hot days, but it was busier indoors. This is strange for us in the summer."
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