Hurricane Irene was no match for most of the pizza joints on the East Coast. Many of Papa John's Eastern stores remained open during the storms and even saw a surge in business, said Chris Sternberg, the international pizza chain's senior vice president of corporate communications and general counsel.
Saturday, Aug. 27 was the roughest day as the storm moved up the coast, closing about 100 stores mostly due to power outages. As of Monday, Aug. 29, less than 50 stores were dealing without power, and some of them were still open for business, relying on back-up generators.
"We had a good solid weekend; proper planning helped us get ahead of this," Sternberg said.
No employees suffered injuries, nor did the storms damage any Papa John's buildings. Sternberg attributes the positive outcome to the preparedness of the company's quality control centers in North Carolina and New Jersey.
"They did a lot of advance planning," he said, which included routing trucks early enough to deliver fresh ingredients and having generator power ready for when power lines were down.
"I will tell you we had a pretty good surge in business through the weekend," Sternberg said. "Folks were staying home and watching the storm coverage, so we were able to deliver to those folks who didn't want to get out."
During the most dangerous parts of the storm, some Papa John's stores went to carry-out only to protect drivers from harm's way.
"We'll never put a team member's safety at risk," Sternberg said. "If there's a threat to a driver, we'll go to carry out only, but once it's safe, and they feel comfortable, we'll start delivering again."
At the storm's peak, Domino's Pizza had 218 stores close due to mandatory evacuations, said Chris Brandon, a company spokesman.
"All but about 32 are open, mostly due to power loss," he said. "As those areas regain power, we anticipate all of those stores temporarily closed to resume normal business."
Like Papa John's, Domino's stores and supply chain centers started preparing for Irene as early as Tuesday of last week.
"Our Supply Chain Centers were making deliveries to our stores until Saturday evening, as we wanted to be prepared to feed both customers and emergency relief workers if need be," Brandon said.
Many restaurant and foodservice businesses on the East Coast are open and are looking forward to serving everyone who plans to share a meal with friends and family this holiday weekend, said Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO, The National Restaurant Association.
She hopes consumers on the Eastern seaboard will stay on track with their Labor Day plans; summer travel and tourism are important for restaurants from coast to coast, as approximately one out of three dollars in industry sales is tourism related.
According to NRA research, 35 percent of consumers nationwide plan to dine out or get take-out or delivery from a restaurant for Labor Day.
"As the summer of 2011 draws to a close, we hope all restaurant operators will have a record-breaking weekend," she said.
Would you stay open if your business was in the eye of such a storm? Leave your comments below.
Cherryh Butler has been a reporter for nearly 10 years, writing on a variety of topics ranging from the restaurant industry to business and health and fitness news. Before joining FastCasual.com as editor, she oversaw KioskMarketplace.com and PizzaMarketplace.com and contributed to RetailCustomerExperience.com. She's also written for several daily newspapers, magazines and websites, including The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine.