Wendell restaurant owner reflects on 2021, preps for 2022

Wendell restaurant owner reflects on 2021, preps for 2022

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — According to the National Restaurant Association, despite challenges finding workers, restaurant sales are expected to be up almost 20% this year compared to last year. With New Year’s Eve just three days away, many restaurants are expecting one last surge of business for 2021.


What You Need To Know

Restaurant sales are expected to be up almost 20% this year compared to 2020

Eating and drinking places are still nearly 8% below pre-pandemic employment levels

One Wendell restaurant owner says he has seen a lot of support from the community


Farmhouse Cafe in Wendell is gearing up for New Years’s Eve.

“We will have a DJ. We are literally rolling out the red carpet. We want it to be an Oscars type thing. We will have paparazzi flashing pictures,” said Patrick Cowden, chef and owner of Farmhouse Cafe.

Cowden has been in the restaurant industry for 40 years so he’s no stranger to the big crowds that New Year’s Eve celebrations bring.

“It totally varies from place to place. The night that it’s on, certainly New Year’s Eve on a Friday night, people will get out and about,” Cowden said.

This year he’s reflecting on the support people have shown his restaurant, which opened in 2019.

“So many people realize ‘this is my neighbor,’ because I live here in the neighborhood as well. They say, ‘here’s my neighbor trying to keep his business afloat.’ That’s been paramount to us being around, people wanting to support the little guys and helping them stay in business,” Cowden said.

He also faced some challenges in 2021, especially after making the hard decision to close his downtown Raleigh spot, the Pharmacy Café, in 2020.

“Knock on wood we have fabulous support from the community here at the cafe. Unfortunately my other cafe in Raleigh, the Pharmacy Cafe, we had to permanently close that due to COVID, and so we transferred staff from there over to here,” Cowden said.

He says that location was fairly small and not ideal for social distancing measures or capacity limits. However, he’s optimistic things will continue to look up in 2022, and that all starts on Friday.

“Just trying to create a good festive atmosphere to get this whole burden of COVID off your shoulders a bit. As wide of a space we have here, we can definitely do this type of party but with plenty of social distancing to make everyone comfortable,” Cowden said.

The National Restaurant Association also reports, “Despite a steady trend of job creation in the first half of the year, eating and drinking places are still nearly 1 million jobs, or 8%, below pre-pandemic employment levels and the restaurants and accommodations sector have one of the highest levels of unfilled job openings of any industry.”

Meanwhile, two other restaurants in downtown Raleigh are treating New Year’s Eve like a typical day.

“As COVID has changed operations for many businesses, it has also changed ours. We generally would have a band, complimentary party favors and champagne toast. We are no longer providing live entertainment, therefore NYE will be normal hours for a Friday. It is always a steady service shift for us,” said Hunter Correll, the general manager of 42nd Street Oyster Bar.

“For this NYE dinner, we decided to stick to our regular menu and treat it like any other weekend night. I’m very optimistic for 2022,” said Samad Hachby, with Mulino Italian Kitchen and Bar.

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