If the pandemic taught me one thing, it would be a greater appreciation for the little things- the small, in-between, and seemingly certain things, because we learned (basically overnight) that even those could be gone in the blink of an eye. During the months of darkness, fear and isolation, something I missed the most was the solace of a shared meal in a busy restaurant and how truly special it is to commune with another human in that way. The City of Good Neighbors is good at a lot of things, but two of the things we’re best at (in my opinion) is food and friendships. Slap those two things together and you get some of the best restaurants and restaurateurs, both of which were deeply affected during those long months. While takeout was still an option, it forced many businesses to reduce hours, cut down staff size, and come up with a new kind of business model for an unpredictable amount of time. Over a year later now, as we inch closer and closer to the return to normal, restaurants are exchanging social distancing signs for previously loved programming, extended hours and full staff- a sigh of relief for these owners.
Elmwood bar and restaurant hotspot, Jack Rabbit, is now announcing a full brunch menu every Saturday and Sunday from 11am till 3pm featuring long standing classics and special Jack Rabbit spin-offs. With this spot’s apparent deep appreciation for live music and supporting local musicians, guests can expect nothing less at brunch! Apart from the change in programming, co-owner Josh Mullin was able to speak briefly about how the shift toward normalcy has affected staffing procedures and the much talked about labor shortage.
“I don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea that people are having a hard time hiring people. I’ve got a stack of applications. I have people on a daily basis asking if they can wash the dishes for us. So I think if you provide the right work atmosphere and you pay people and you treat them okay, you can hire them no matter what I mean, there’s 250,000 people in Buffalo city.”
He spoke fondly of his current 70 person staff and explained,
“We have unbelievable staff; our staff is insane! We wouldn’t be able to do half of what we do without them! Yeah, our staff’s unbelievable. Our kitchen, I gotta give nods to all the time.”
With covid changing the service industry as we know it, Mullin stressed that staffing problems have much more to do with creating an atmosphere that is not only safe, but also ensuring that your workers feel appreciated.
Neighbor and fellow restaurateur Jason Davidson of The Terrace at Delaware Park, has had to tap into a new level of creativity in order to ride the waves of this pandemic and come out alive on the other side. Guests can expect the same level of excellence they have always experienced, but with added thoughtful levels to ensure that everyone feels safe while dining. From vaccine-only dining rooms, to a fully vaccinated staff, nothing has been overlooked when it comes to precautionary measures taken.
In addition to the safety protocols, Davidson has entirely new programming that focuses on local musicians and implementing “Dining with the Arts” and other immersive experiences in order to keep their five-day model of business profitable for both guests and staff.
“Unfortunately, because of covid, there’s been a definite drop in holiday parties throughout the season west, so we’re utilizing our big Pan Am room. We just got a baby grand piano, stage lights and we’re going to be turning that into a dining room for, “Dining with the Arts,” and we’ll be doing some live jazz and blues, some cabaret, we’re also talking with some theater companies about doing maybe some previews for upcoming plays or some other interactive dining experiences and connecting ourselves more with the music and arts community around us.”
Because of the Terrace’s dedication to serving their guests to the best of their abilities, events and live entertainment in the Pan Am room will be vaccine only, with other dining rooms open based on the honor system. This reasoning comes from an aim at being inclusive as opposed to exclusive, and ultimately a deep-rooted appreciation for all their beloved patrons.
“Most of our customers have always felt drawn to the Terrace because they feel most comfortable here because of our large patio dining, and a lot of them have said that once that is over, they probably won’t be really dining out. So, we’re trying to give them options so they can come in and feel safer.”
There is not a precaution that has gone unnoticed for our local restaurateurs, and rest assured that each is working round the clock with our wellbeing and enjoyment in mind. Whether going out to eat or enjoying take-out from your favorite spot, send them and their staff a little extra love. Service industry life is not an easy venture, but they take it on in hopes of bettering a city that they truly love. Special thanks to these amazing spots and people, the Queen City wouldn’t be the same without you.