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Restaurants Are Fed Up Over Weather Forecasts

August 7, 1990

BOSTON (AP) _ Forecasting weather is an imprecise science, at best, but the chance that people might heed a bleak forecast that doesn’t come true has some Massachusetts restaurant operators up in arms.

All too often, complains Frank Catania, a television weather forecaster will predict rain or snow, and instead the sun will shine over empty tables at his restaurants.

″They’re not God. They’re going to make mistakes,″ Catania said.

While many people would like more detail in the forecasts, and a warning of even a chance of rain or snow that might affect their lives, some people in the restaurant business have mounted a campaign to get television prognosticators to tone down their predictions.

″We’re not asking them to say the weather’s always going to be nice,″ said Cindy Eid, public affairs coordinator for the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. ″We’re looking for some responsibility on their part.″

The restaurant group has formed a ″weather task force,″ which aims to educate meteorologists about the way their nightly forecasts can affect business.

The group especially doesn’t like five-day forecasts.

Bruce Schwoegler, a forecaster for WBZ-TV in Boston, says he is always careful to call that a ″five day outlook,″ trying to draw a distinction with short-range forecasts that tend to be more reliable.

Schwoegler said he also has told viewers not to make their weekend plans based on Monday’s weather predictions.

John Orgler, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boston, said he, too, would not encourage people to make plans based on long-range predictions.

″It only makes sense to wait for the day before to get something more reliable and up to date,″ he said.

But the restaurateurs think that apparently hasn’t sunk in with some people. The restaurant group has collected letters from members around the state to illustrate their point.

E. Thomas McCabe Jr., president of Tom Foolery’s in Westboro, described how on more than one occasion, no snowstorms materialized after ″alarmist″ weather forecasts, ″turning $13,000 Fridays into $7,000 Fridays.″

Even the prestigious Harvard Club of Boston joined in. A letter from the club said a weather forecaster who ″cried wolf″ last year led to the cancellation of a dinner for 250 people.

The industry is especially sensitive on Cape Cod, where people will make weekend plans well in advance.

Catania, vice president of Dan’l Webster-Hearth ’n Kettle, which runs an inn and several restaurants on the Cape, recalled how a TV forecaster earlier this year advised people to scrap their Sunday golf plans because it was going to rain.

″Guess what? I played golf on Sunday on the Cape and I got a suntan,″ he said.

Some restaurant operators suggest weather forecasters simply add a few more cautionary phrases to their delivery, and refrain from ″sensationali zed″ pronouncements.

″We’re not trying to impinge on their creative talents,″ Eid said. ″We just want them to be aware that there are economic implications when they make forecasts.″