Dispatch: Ohio restaurants push gift cards to pay the bills

UC economics professor Michael Jones discusses gift cards as survival strategy for small businesses

Ohio restaurants and bars have taken a beating because of the coronavirus pandemic, but selling gift cards during the holiday season may be just what the doctor ordered to keep them afloat. 

In a Columbus Dispatch trend piece, reporter Patrick Cooley takes a look at how restaurants and bars are offering discounts on gift cards to get the cash infusion they need to survive until the country moves past the pandemic. Cooley turns to Michael Jones, assistant professor of economics at the University of Cincinnati, for his thoughts on this strategy and its advantages for businesses. 

Jones, who is also executive director of the Kautz-Uible Economics Institute at UC's Carl H. Lindner College of Business, told Cooley gift cards are essentially short-term loans for restaurants and other small businesses. 

“Given the precariousness of finances right now, a restaurant gets an immediate cash infusion with the expense coming later,” Jones told the Dispatch.

Jones noted that a small portion of gift card recipients never use them, giving the businesses what essentially amounts to free money.