Healthy Appetite: The good news is that Charleston has no shortage of diners. The bad news? Charleston has no shortage of diners.
The Grocery chef-owner Kevin Johnson has added health insurance and a retirement plan to attract and retain staff.
Help Wanted: The demand for kitchen staff continues to pose a problem as many have left the industry in what some call a “turnover contagion.”
Gig Economy: Longtime local chef Ben Ellsworth (left, at Royal American) developed his Gigpro app to help F&B pros find open shifts in Charleston restaurants. Since launching in November 2020, GigPro has expanded to 14 other cities throughout the Southeast.
A full house at Marina Variety Store.
Brunch crowds trail out the door at Millers All Day on King Street.
Coffee lovers pack spots like Harken on Queen Street.
Helping Hand: Chef Vivian Howard opened two Charleston eateries, Lenoir and Handy & Hot, during the pandemic. She credits support from Renaissance Hotel—where both restaurants are located—with helping her staff up.
Under Pressure: Chef Jacques Larson (pictured here at The Obstinate Daughter on Sullivan’s Island) readily admits the last two years have been the hardest of his three decades in F&B. “Restaurant work isn’t the easiest profession when there isn’t a global pandemic, but a host of new problems as a result of COVID has squeezed the life out of many restaurants. For many the stress and demoralization of the process has proven to be insurmountable.”
Making Rent: Local realtors say the price per square foot for restaurant and retail space has increased since the pandemic.
Closing Time: Even though the figures weren’t as dire as anticipated, Charleston did lose a handful of landmark downtown restaurants, including Blossom, Fulton Five, and Basil, as well as Jestine’s Kitchen, Martha Lou’s, McCrady’s, Minero, and Nana’s Seafood & Soul.
End of an Era: Martha Lou’s Kitchen served its last meal in September 2020 after the landlord sold the property to developers. Namesake Martha Lou Gadsden passed away seven months later at the age of 91.
Steve Palmer, founder of The Indigo Road Hospitality Group, has made robust benefits a focus in order to not only attract talent, but to retain it.
Taste making: KJ Kearney (right, at Gillie’s Seafood on James Island) founded Black Food Fridays in April 2020 to encourage diners to support Black-owned restaurants, most of which have been pushed off the peninsula. He says the culinary scene will continue to expand into the suburbs.
Here’s to us: Nikki Fairman has been serving drinks in the city for years and says what’s needed now is some tenderness toward one another on the part of diners and F&B workers alike.