Ask George: How come so few restaurants are open on Thanksgivingnot for brunch, but for dinner? Jack W., Wrightsville Beach, NC
I get asked this question a lot. But when I posed it to several local restaurant owners, most of the responses were a polite form of how about, because its Thanksgiving, ya nitwit! Yet some restaurants do stay open that evening, and for good reason.
The majority of restaurants elect to close for the entire day, for obvious reasons. The places that open at all usually do so for brunch/lunch, closing in mid- to late afternoon. A handful stay open until 7 p.m., and fewer stillCoopers Hawk Winery & Restaurant, Maggianos Little Italy, and McCormick & Schmicks (according to this year’s edition of Ian Froebs yearly compilation)remain open later than that, limiting the options for any kind of a mid-evening meal.
Charlie Downs, owner of Cyranos Caf and co-owner of Sugarfire Smoke House, does not open the former and opens Sugarfires Olivette location mainly to accommodate pickups for smoked turkeys, he says. Its still a great day…even when we close at 2 p.m.
Andy Kohn, owner of Edgewild Restaurant and Winery and Edgewild Bistro & Tap, says that Thanksgiving is the second or third busiest day of the year, yet he closes both restaurants early enough so staffers still have time to enjoy a dinner with family or friends. His thoughts echo Downs: Sure, we could jam in an extra seating or two, he philosophized before pausing, but is it really worth it?
Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant stays open regular hours on Thanksgiving, from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and employees can volunteer to work that day or not, for either the first or second shift. A company representative told SLM that many do, since it’s an opportunity to pick up a little extra holiday cash and still be able to see friends/relatives at some point in the day. And for employees with no turkey in their immediate future, the staff meal that day is representative as well.
Whether to stay open or not on that night remains an interesting conundrum.
When I was a partner at Harvest, we pushed a lot of boundaries, one of which was opening on Thanksgiving from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. It was the night that kicked off the holidays for us (plus provided an extra shot of revenue just when year-end taxes were due). And it was packed. Every year. For many local diners, having Thanksgiving dinner at Harvest became a tradition. Staffers would volunteer for the shift (or we wouldnt open) and that never became an issue. One reason was that after the shift, wed open the bar (and on this occasion, even the wine cabinet) and chef/fellow partner Steve Gontram would cook the crew and their SOs a turkey and fixins dinner that rivaled grandmas. The evening was always a wild success, memorable for all concerned. After Harvest closed in the summer of 2014, I wondered if an independent restaurant would pick up the torch. So far, none have.
Dont get me wrong, Im not advocating spending holidays away from loved onesI’m not the ogre of Thanksgiving. My point is, if all parties are willing and all parties benefit, then more restaurants should consider answering requests for offering a Thanksgiving dinner.
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