Hell’s Kitchen now one of the nation’s busiest independent restaurants
In an ironic twist of fate, Hell’s Kitchen, which by all accounts shouldn’t have even survived its first year in business, now finds itself in an elite group as one of the country’s busiest independently-owned restaurants.
Located in the heart of downtown, the one-of-a-kind restaurant almost didn’t get off the ground after chef/founder Mitch Omer suffered a debilitating accident just weeks after opening in 2002. To deal with the crisis, the cash-strapped owners had to scramble for funds, selling of almost everything they owned (including their house) and even borrowing from their son’s meager college savings.
Fast forward to 2012, when the restaurant –in the midst of celebrating its 10th anniversary– discovered it has grown into one of the busiest restaurants in the country. “When we left OpenTable last year, they mentioned that our numbers were higher than most of their New York City restaurants. I just assumed they were trying to flatter us to keep the account,” explained co-founder Cynthia Gerdes. “But now EVEVE, our new reservation company, says we’re booking more reservations than any of their other clients in the world, and that’s certainly caught my attention.”
“We’re thrilled to have fiercely loyal customers, especially because we’re an independent,” added Omer. “So to celebrate 10 years, I tossed out a bet that I’d throw a customer appreciation brunch if we could get 10,000 Facebook Fans,” he said.
Customers got behind the effort and won the bet this week, so Omer’s throwing a party May 5th & 6th featuring ten best menu items at $10 each, tables laden with prizes, free live music, plus Tickets to Hell for free meals and other goodies throughout the remainder of the year. Omer even decided to fly in an out of town winner for an all-expenses trip to Minneapolis that weekend.
The minute the party was announced, phones rang off the hook, and EVEVE’s new reservation system booked over 1,400 reservations in a matter of hours. “Thank God our systems held up,” said Gerdes, but the sudden spike in online activity set monitoring alarms off all the way in the U.K., where their reservation company guards client accounts 24/7.
The restaurant, never shy about touting its own horn (“We’ve worked our asses off for ten years with rarely even a day off, so damn right we’re proud,” winks Gerdes), has consistently garnered recognition for its breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, winning accolades from Gourmet Magazine, MPR, and national travel magazines. Yet the late night food with live music has fueled the independent’s biggest growth, attracting younger audiences that come back to eat after discovering the seductive underground lair.
Co-owner and Co-founder, Hell’s Kitchen
Director of Marketing, Hell’s Kitchen