The 100+ degree heat in the Pacific Northwest was unlike anything the region had experienced before and the effect on the restaurant industry was stifling and breathtaking. As temperatures rose to incredibly high levels for the normally temperate climate, restaurants rushed to continue service, many housed in buildings without cooling or air conditioning. For many owners and staff, it felt like a double whammy, emerging from the struggles of the pandemic.
At Eden Hill in Seattle, cold water was the order of the day as temperatures soared and management made the difficult decision to shut down.
Other local restaurants and farmers’ markets followed suit, unable to cope with the record high temperatures that have been fatal for some local residents.
“For us, all of the decisions we made were first and foremost for the safety of our staff and our team,” Musang Chef and Owner Melissa Miranda told TODAY Food. The popular Filipino-inspired restaurant known for its inspired dishes and craft cocktails was closed for three days due to the intense heat. “It’s a financial blow, but the safety of our team and our guests comes first,” she said. “One of the many things that the pandemic has taught us is to be able to make quick decisions.”
With its restaurant located in a former craftsman’s house in a climate that does not normally require air conditioning, Miranda and many other restaurateurs were hit hard by the heatwave.
“We don’t have air conditioning because Seattle is not equipped for it,” she said. In anticipation of the heat, she bought us extra fans. “It was 95 inside the restaurant,” she said of last weekend. “So you can imagine the kitchen was a lot hotter. We performed a service that you could see on the faces of our guests and my team.”
As temperatures dropped and the heat subsided, Musang reopened.
“We’re open again, we’ve bought portable air conditioners,” Miranda said.
She said that while the weather was surprising for June, the biggest takeaway is concern for the welfare of workers in the service industry.
“We have to value the workers,” she said.
Kamala Saxton, co-owner and chef of Hawaiian fusion restaurant Super Six, had a similar story. “If it’s 108 ° outside, our restaurant kitchen can easily be even 15 degrees hotter. We’re already short of staff, I would have kicked out all of our staff (as it should be) if we had stayed Open Monday Well closed – being on our staff was the right thing to do on the hottest day ever in Seattle, ”Saxton said.
At Seattle’s Chengdu Taste, even a refreshing craft cocktail or pineapple juice couldn’t refresh the dining room long enough for the popular Sichuan chain of Southern California to stay open during the hottest days of unusual weather.
While the restaurant is known for turning the heat up on its spicy and creative Sichuan dishes, no one in the restaurant was prepared for last weekend’s heatwave. Service worker David Li told TODAY Food that in a way the extreme heat was more difficult for the restaurant than the pandemic because they were able to stay open for take out during COVID closures.
“We are open at the moment,” he said, ready to resume his activities.
And while there were disappointed guests who had traveled from afar after getting a hard-to-get reservation in Musang, Miranda said most people were understanding.
“We have a great community that supports our decisions,” she said.