ST. LOUIS — A new complex near Busch Stadium has shaken up the St. Louis restaurant scene.
Restaurant business slows in the summer when people go on vacation, said John Pollaci, owner of distributor Sun Farm Foodservice.
Added to that perennial challenge for many restaurants has been the opening of Ballpark Village, a complex near Busch Stadium, home to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ballpark Village is pulling in some customers who might otherwise have eaten at other area restaurants, Pollaci said.
“It’s been a little dicey the past couple of months. A lot (of business) was usurped by (Ballpark Village).”
A couple of restaurants, including one, Harvest, that Pollaci calls “an institution,” have closed recently.
Sal Pupillo, co-owner of H.R. Bushman & Son, agreed that some restaurateurs weren’t happy when Ballpark Village opened. But in general, and given time, he doesn’t think area restaurants have too much to worry about.
“Once the newness wears off, it will just be another place downtown.”
The Cardinals, Pupillo said, have a tendency to lift all boats — at least, as long as things are going well, as they usually are.
“When the ball team does well, it seems like downtown does well.”
With the St. Louis economy on the slow and steady upturn, the region’s foodservice industry has benefited, said Dale Vaccaro, owner of Vaccaro & Sons Produce.
“The restaurant business is good,” he said.
Sales also are strong to nursing homes and other foodservice channels, Vaccaro said.
One of Vaccaro & Sons’ growing restaurant customers is Jet’s Pizza, a Michigan-based chain with several restaurants now in the St. Louis area.
“We service all of those,” Vaccaro said.
Foodservice operators in St. Louis have found a comfortable niche, Pupillo said.
“Foodservice seems to be healthy. I think what happens here is your bigger foodservice operations can’t afford to stop trucks at smaller operations. It leaves a seam for the smaller players. They’re thriving.”
Things are also good at the buyer end of the foodservice spectrum in St. Louis, Pupillo said.
“The restaurant business in St. Louis is always good. There are a lot of good restaurants here.”
Foodservice business has been steady for Independent Fruit & Produce, said Steve Wielansky, a partner in the firm. But the winter threw a bit of a wrench in things.
“It’s been down a little this year because the weather’s been so terrible. People aren’t eating out as much.”
There’s also been some shake up in the local restaurant scene, Wielansky said.
“Some have gone out of business — some chains and some independents,” he said. “Some are being replaced, some not.”
The summer comes on the heels of a difficult winter for foodservice, Pollaci said.
Because of the cold, snowy conditions, not only did people not eat out as much — schools were closed more than usual, cutting off another foodservice channel.