While most restaurants in Dallas went dark this week due to power outages, busted pipes and stranded employees, chef and CEO Robert Hall and a small staff at the Statler hotel in downtown Dallas almost never stopped cooking.
His restaurants Overeasy, Scout and Sfereco were continuously open during the winter snowstorm, even while Refined Hospitality Concepts’ other restaurants closed.
“It’s been heart-wrenching, it’s been exhilarating, it’s been exhausting,” says Hall, who worked the counter at Sfereco and hauled trash in the middle of the night at Overeasy.
“To take the team through coronavirus … and to have the capstone be this ‘fun fest’ — it’s not an education I ever signed up for, but I’m very humbled by the experience,” he says.
At Overeasy, the diner inside the Statler, the bestseller was breakfast: bacon, eggs, toast and jam. At Sfereco, lines formed around the building for pizza.
Hall and his employees had the built-in benefit of being affiliated with the hotel, which means they had warm, safe rooms for employees to take shelter. His team also was able to scavenge for food in the Statler’s banquet-hall kitchens.
“We just knew people needed basic food service,” Hall says. “The biggest challenge was just the supply lines. We weren’t getting deliveries. We were absolutely raiding the banquet kitchens — and robbing Peter to pay Paul — to put out a representative menu at each of those brands.”
Hall confirmed the same thing several other restaurant owners did: Staying open helped them keep food spoilage to a minimum. But it wasn’t a huge moneymaker.
“We’ve been living the same life for a long time,” Hall says of the continued sales slump from the coronavirus pandemic. “We’re definitely not recovering financially by doing this.”
Their upside was that Sfereco, a relatively new brand, now has some loyal customers.
“It was a lot of downtown residents who didn’t know we were there yet. I loved that,” he says.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit was able to continuously operate the restaurant on Wycliff Avenue in Dallas while dozens of other Dickey’s restaurants in Texas had to shut down.
Because so few restaurants were open nearby in the Medical District, a line of hungry customers formed at the restaurant on Tuesday, Feb. 16, the coldest day in North Texas in 72 years.
Dickey’s also kept its restaurant at Terminal E at DFW International Airport open, and a spokesperson says it was the only restaurant open in that terminal during the worst parts of the snowstorm.
Dickey’s is proud to say it is closed just two days a year: on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“Dickey’s has built our legacy on being a staple and servant to the community in the good times and bad,” says CEO Laura Rea.
Among the 57 Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers in Dallas-Fort Worth, seven kept serving. Many worked under limited hours, donating food to their local fire departments, police departments, nursing home staffs or warming shelters. Raising Cane’s outreach efforts during the snowstorm reached people in Richardson, Frisco, Prosper, Rowlett, Forney, Garland and Dallas.