My friend wanted a seafood dinner by the water, an easy enough request with a cluster of such restaurants by the New Orleans lakefront these days.
But Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar was in the weeds and not seating new tables. The Blue Crab Restaurant & Oyster Bar, just down the docks, was closed, and even Landry’s Seafood House, the massive chain restaurant next door, was turning people away with the news that it had seated all the parties it could handle that night. No dice at Two Tony’s nearby, which was also closed.
So over to Bucktown we went, passing Station 6 (closed), R&O’s (closed), New Orleans Food & Spirits (packed) and Deanie’s Seafood (also packed) before finding just a short wait at Mr. Ed’s Seafood & Italian Restaurant. Finally, success, and a progression of calamari, trout with a mushroom butter sauce and crabmeat au gratin.
“Everyone’s coming here because everyone else is closed tonight,” sighed a friendly but clearly fatigued host.
And that sums up the whole dynamic. This simple outing turned into a miniature odyssey for one reason: It was Monday.
Monday has customarily been a day when many restaurants close. But through the tumult of pandemic times for the hospitality industry, there’s been a noticeable rise in the number of restaurants going dark on Mondays.
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The upshot leaves prospective customers searching for options and settling in for a wait before being served. Restaurants that do stay open often say Monday is a banner day for business, and some have cultivated the niche.
“People need a break”
Restaurant operators say the closing decision nearly always comes down to staffing levels, a deep-running issue industry-wide after restaurants were all but shut down early in the pandemic and have grappled with ever since.
Few restaurants are operating with optimal staff levels, and that means a greater workload for those who are back at it.
“I’m just a big believer that people need a break,” said chef Aaron Burgau.
He is a partner in three very different restaurants that each close Mondays – Charlie’s Steak House (also closed Sunday), Central City BBQ and the upscale Patois (also closed Tuesday).
“Having those days off when everyone is off together is a big help for morale, especially now,” he said.
Nick Asprodites, who with his family runs the Blue Crab, called a common day off a “re-set for everyone here, top to bottom.”
Of course, just because a restaurant is closed does not mean that owners and managers are off. These are days when maintenance and repairs can be undertaken without customers in the house, Asprodites pointed out.
Time and place
The type of restaurant often dictates decisions on operating schedules. For instance, chains, with greater resources and more regimented business models, are typically open daily. Independent upscale restaurants are the type most likely to be closed on a Monday.
That made Clancy’s a rare and reliable Uptown spot for fine dining on Mondays for decades. But at least for now this modern Creole classic is closed on Sundays and Mondays, because the restaurant doesn’t have the staff numbers it once did.
“Monday was always a pretty good day for us, because other restaurants weren’t open,” said Clancy’s owner Brad Hollingsworth.
“But right now, until we can hire more people, we just have to focus on doing what we do best when we are open. With everyone having two days off in a row, it’s just better for the staff,” he said.
Building the Monday niche
Ed McIntyre, owner of Mr. Ed’s in Bucktown (where we finally feasted on that dinner outing), keeps all of his seven restaurants in Metairie and New Orleans open on Mondays, though for different reasons.
His Metairie restaurants have a mostly local clientele, and he knows that there’s native demand for certain types of meals on Monday.
“It’s the red beans and chicken, that’s what so many New Orleans people want when it’s Monday and they’ll go out to a restaurant for it,” said McIntryre.
His restaurants in New Orleans, including the French Quarter and St. Charles Avenue, draw many visitors, and here again Monday business is good.
“It’s tourists who are still here from the weekend, there’s a lot of them who come in and stay Monday too,” he said. “That’s why a lot of French Quarter places close on Tuesday or Wednesday.”
Because many restaurant workers are off Monday, that also sets up an industry night angle at some places that are open.
At Marjie’s Grill and Seafood Sally’s, the two restaurants run by Caitlin Carney and Marcus Jacobs, Monday is the finishing line for their weekly schedules.
They play it up with discounted magnums of wine at Marjie’s Grill on Mondays, while Seafood Sally’s rolls out raw bar specials tied to the Monday night’s pro wrestling extravaganza WWE Raw, shown on TVs at the bar.
“Monday is one of our busier nights now at both restaurants,” said Carney. “And it’s fun. You get through the weekend and then you get your industry crowd, and those are your best customers.”
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