Long Power Outages Cost Restaurants Thousands

CHICAGO (CBS) — This week’s major storm has been a nightmare for residents, with thousands of homeowners going more than 48 hours without power. But imagine owning a restaurant and having no power for more than two days. Imagine the mess and the smell of all the spoiling food.

That’s the reality for Robert Bode, co-owner of Salutos Italian Restaurant in Gurnee. He had no choice but to toss out thousands of pounds of spoiled food, costing him $20,000 to $30,000.

As CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports, the owners of Salutos have been dealing with a large loss of food, on top of two days of lost business.

On a Wednesday night, there are usually 200 people at the restaurant for dinner, but that won’t be happening this Wednesday, because the restaurant has been closed since Monday’s storm.

Entire trays of mozzarella, box after box of chicken wings and Italian sausage were tossed into a dumpster behind the restaurant on Wednesday.

Co-owner Melody Body said, “It’s sad. It’s just really sad.”

Salutos has been without power since Monday morning. Thousands of pounds of food – with a price tag ranging from $20,000 to $30,000 – has all gone to waste. The walk-in freezer was empty on Wednesday.

“We’ve been inventorying food product, to make sure we’re hopefully going to get covered by insurance and we just started finishing up,” Robert Bode said. “It’s unbelievable, just the devastation, you know, the cost.”

Salutos has been a fixture in Gurnee for two decades.

“On a Friday or Saturday night, we probably do three, four hundred people, so you can kind of calculate that into dollars,” Robert Bode said. “And without that, I don’t know if insurance will cover something like that for loss of income there or not.”

ComEd has said it is not reimbursing its customers for spoiled food due to power outages, since the outages were caused by a storm – an act of nature – and not from actions taken by ComEd.

While some who work at Salutos have been coming in to help with the cleanup, there are some who have stayed home and won’t return until the restaurant reopens.

“For our employees, the lack of income, the lack of income for Salutos, you know. It’s tough,” Robert Bode said.

The owners also said they do a lot of catering this time of year, so they’re missing out on those opportunities right now, as well. They’ve been told the power will be back on in another two to three days.

They said they’re just being patient while they wait.

Melody Bode said she does see one silver lining for her employees. All the pastas and sauces are homemade. That means lots of overtime for the workers who will need to get the restaurant up and running again, when the power finally comes back.

  • rc

    Be worth to invest in a genset.

  • kay

    Get a generator for next time. Couldn’t you find a place that would have stored your food until the power is restored instead of wasting all that food and depending on your insurance to cover it.

  • bill s.

    Food could have gone to food bank for needy.

  • Pat

    I agree with Bill S. He could have donated the food to a food pantry or a soup kitchen or something. All it would have taken is a few calls made and the word would have gotten out. He could have been a hero!
    With the times as bad as they are, someone could have benefited from this misfortune.

  • SS

    I agree with Bill S & Pat. I was so angry when I was watching that segment. He could have set up a few webers in the parking lot and started feeding people on the street – anything but waste all that food. Soup kitchens definitely would have taken SOME of it – he could have had a nice tax write off to boot!

  • bill s.

    You’re all correct! Guy missed one hell of an opportunity to spread a little cheer. It would have made a GREAT public relations story … instead of a cry-baby one.

  • Brian

    I disagree with Bill S. and Pat. I live in the northern suburbs, and no one had any idea how long it was going to take to get our power back. Maybe in the next hour, maybe in four days. Obviously you hope for the best. It ended up taking two days for us. Having worked in a restaurant industry, I know the deep freezers stay freezing cold for days without power. Why preemptively give out so much food when the power might come right back on? As far as I know, to use a generator you need a plug, and these massive freezers definitely don’t come with an AC power plug at the end, so a generator would do absolutely no good.

    Plus, you all seem to be forgetting about health regulations. If the food has already gone over a certain temperature, it’s not deemed to be safe anymore. Why would you want to risk giving spoiled food to the food pantries and tons of people getting sick? And, with the times as bad as they are, people are all too quick to try getting a fast buck and then sue this restaurant for making them ill, when the owner was trying to do a good deed to begin with.

    Too many of you are being too quick to make claims without considering the numerous complexities in a situation like this. It’s not as simple as you all may think. To me at least, it seems like they did what they had to in an unfortunate situation.

  • Peacen-N-Love


    You and the restaurant owners are full of it! I know some people in the restaurant industry that when a situation like this happens they don’t toss the food but give it to friends and relative. Even if its only a few hours with out power. Then they put a claim on it to the insurance. I guarantee if you go dumpster diving at that restaurant you will find nothing but empty boxes or containers that once had food.

    • Ehtel

      I would have to agree with Brian. First of all there are so many regulations to prevent food borne illnesses that it would have been a risk and like Brian said, sue happy people would have been right there to stake their claim in someone who was trying to do a good deed to begin with. Second… the boxes in the dumpster are FULL of spoled food. The stench is unbelievable. How do you know that some of the food wasn’t donated? The were I’m sure SO many restaurants and small grocery stores in the same situation. No one knew how long the power was going to be out. If you knew that, you’d be headlining a show in Vegas. Transporting food to a location where it could have been saved also would have been risky. Plus if everyone was without power, where would it have gone? Too many people quick to judge without knowing how the industry works.

  • Brian

    Peacen-N-Love, correct me if I’m wrong, but that what you claim is called insurance fraud. A few hours without power probably won’t affect anything. Days without it definitely will. Giving out all the food to friends and claiming it on insurance is like double dipping. If the food was still safe to consume (ie, hasn’t passed the critical temperatures) and be given to friends, why wouldn’t you keep it in your restaurant, especially if the power is only out for a short time? It sounds like the people you know did it specifically to get their friends free food and have the insurance company pay for it, since they gave it away right after the power went out.

  • Camp Ranger

    I don’t suppose this clown ever heard of DRY ICE??? I use this in several of my commercial customers restaurants and have had very good success at preserving food product for several days. $20 to $30 thousand ??? I doubt that…. From looking at the size of his restaurant I doubt if he would have had that much product on hand…. No restauranteur keeps excess product on hand… it is not cost effective.

  • Ethel

    Camp Ranger…who are you to say how much product a business person keeps on hand? You don’t know the ins and outs of every restaurant and what it is they sell. Alot of places have specialty items, food that is prepped for the days customers and frozen stock on hand. These days, no one can afford to keep more than they use in a weeks time. If all the businesses in the area were down due to no power and no gas stations opened, where would you propose they pick up dry ice? In the area you are targeting, it is catastrophic. So many businesses including restaurants, gas stations, small grocery stores have huge amounts of loss.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live