Vail Valley restaurant industry feels bad economy |

Vail Valley restaurant industry feels bad economy

Restaurateurs say real test of economy will come after beginning of the year

Melanie Wong/The Vail Daily

— For Zacca Za server Steven Gibson, a night with $780 worth of bills might have been considered a pretty successful workday in Colorado’s Vail Valley.

However, after counting up his tips from the night, the total came to $130 – barely more than 15 percent of his total bills.

Like many other local servers – generally a decent profession in a resort town – Gibson thinks he’s seeing the effects of a bad economy.

During the summer, his tips would generally be in the 22 percent to 30 percent range, but during the past couple of months, he’s seen far less, he said.

“It’s been a drastic change,” he said.

And it isn’t only in tips where Gibson has seen changes. People are ordering more pizzas instead of more expensive entrees, and diners seem to be taking greater advantage of the restaurant’s specials, he said.

Gibson said he chose to work at Zacca Za this winter because he thought it would be more profitable than his job at the Ritz Carlton last ski season. However, it isn’t shaping up that way, he said.

“I didn’t think the bad economy would affect the caliber of people (who vacation here),” he said. “But it does.”

January is the test

Greg Eynon, owner of Vin 48 in Avon, said he’s noticed customers cutting back, too.

“A lot more people are skipping the first course or the appetizers and going straight to the main entree,” he said. “Also, the average price of a bottle of wine that is going out has gone down.”

Like other restaurants, Eynon reported that business has picked up considerably for the holiday weeks, which traditionally is the busiest time of the year. A better gauge of how business will be this season will come in January, he said.

“It will always be busy at this time, but the real unknown is the time after New Year, in later January,” he said. “The snow’s going to be good, so they’ll have no excuse not to come. We’ll have to see.”

Diners want value

Billy’s Island Grill owner Bill Suarez agreed that “you better be busy at this time.”

Business was very slow at the beginning of September, but now with the holiday season in full swing and with the help of a 30-percent-off special, the restaurant is busy, he said.

Tips aren’t down, either, he said – they’ve actually been a bit higher than usual the last few days, but he’s noticed that diners are being more discerning.

“The people who do come in are still ordering big,” he said. “They just seem more discerning about their service and their food. People on a budget want to get the most out of their money.”

Lionshead’s Blue Moose Pizza manager Tamara Chaikin said her restaurant also was staying busy, attributing the business to the Blue Moose’s affordability.

The restaurant hasn’t seen a big decline in business, orders or tips, she said, looking toward the bustling dining room.

“We’re moderately priced and geared toward families, so I think we’re not suffering as much as some of the higher-priced restaurants,” she said.

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