The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day are always a notoriously busy time for restaurants, but at the end of 2013, packed downtown sidewalks and long waits for tables at local eateries signaled a banner holiday for many in the Asheville-area food industry.
“We had a great holiday season as far as business goes,” says Peter Pollay, executive chef and co-owner of Posana Café in downtown Asheville. “I also noticed a lot more people walking around downtown. It was definitely busier than last holiday season.”
“Heck yeah it was busy!” says Rosetta Star, owner of Rosetta’s Kitchen on Broadway, “We were slammed with out-of-town guests and families all the days we were open.”
John Stehling, co-owner of Early Girl Eatery on Wall Street, noted a later start to the holiday rush but, he says, “it seemed to be busier than usual right around the holidays.”
It wasn’t just downtown that saw bustling crowds and long waits for tables. Management at both West End Bakery in West Asheville and Tupelo Honey Café‘s South Asheville location report an influx of families and out-of-town guests. Lori Garrity, manager at Sunny Point Café on Haywood Road, says her restaurant’s December numbers point to a more lucrative holiday season than last year.
So, why did some restaurants notice an increase from years past?
Stehling speculates that more people may have participated in online shopping this year contributing to a slower Thanksgiving and early December, but came out to celebrate with family between Christmas and New Year’s. “We had lots of big tops,” he says, referring to tables seating large groups of customers.
“I feel like last year was a little warmer than this year, and the cold brings people inside,” says Garrity. “The other factor we’ve been talking about is the way Thanksgiving fell this year.” She surmises that with the shorter shopping season, people were busier and relied more on eating out and less on their own labors for nourishment. “A lot of our business was huge groups of family,” Garrity says. It is normal, she says, to see families out for the holidays, but this year they saw larger numbers in individual groups than ever before. “It’s been crazy,” she says.
“If I took a wild guess,” says Starr, “I’d say word is out about Asheville’s popularity and the downtown scene. I received emails from people who were coming to Asheville and meeting their family here for a ‘destination holiday.’”
“I would love to hope that people are shifting away from consumption of material goods and possessions and instead enjoying experiences with their families,” Starr adds.
Photo by Mark-Ellis Bennett