Breaking: Political junkies like coffee. No newsflash there, but the cliche was borne out in looking at the big winners of Philly’s food scene during the Democratic National Convention.
Most sit-down restaurants reported a normal week, with business hovering around average for this time of year (read: relatively slow because of heat and vacations). Several bars saw increased traffic during later hours, but not necessarily overall higher sales. In general, this came as a relief to proprietors scarred from their experiences during the papal visit, when traffic restrictions and warnings kept customers away.
“Pub and Kitchen saw more late-night action than usual,” said Ed Hackett, who oversees operations for the upscale tavern at 20th and Lombard. “Nothing crazy but at least the media/city didn’t scare everyone away like they did with the pope.”
However, when it came to coffee shops, the DNC bounce was noticeable.
Across the board, local cafes saw better than average business throughout the convention — and this mostly held true whether they were in Center City or in outlying areas.
It was busier than usual in every one of Saxbys six Philly locations, per spokesperson Justin Pizzi. La Colombe saw a jump at all three of its storefronts, though the one across from City Hall (and close to the Pa. Convention Center, where many caucus meetings were held) did the most business by far, to the tune of 30 percent more than usual, said store manager Mbaraka Shekallaghe. Federal Donuts’ most central shop, on 16th and Sansom, also did the best of any of its four locations, according to managing partner Tom Henneman.
“There was a slight bump at the others, [but] nothing massive,” Henneman said. The FedNuts donut robot set up at the pop-up “CNN Grill” at Xfinity Live was a big hit, and overall the fried chicken and donut shop got “tons of new customers.”
At OCF Coffee, which has five branches around Philadelphia, week-over-week sales were up between 5 and 20 percent, according to sales figures released by proprietor Ori Feibush.
“Every shop did better, regardless of neighborhood,” Feibush said, praising the city for a successful hosting week. “I give the Mayor’s office all the credit on this. Messaging is very important.”
Restaurateur Teddy Sourias also gave props to the city. Though he had expressed dismay at L&I’s request that he remove outdoor tables in deference to crowds or protesters, he finished the week with a very positive take.
“We were constantly busy,” Sourias said. “The city did a good job this time. I was really impressed.” The late-night crowds he saw at Midtown Village beer bars U-Bahn and Bru Craft & Wurst left him with a strong suggestion for the city: “They need to extend our [regular] serving hours till at least 3 a.m.”
Both those bars hosted several special DNC events and pushed DNC deals hard. For those that didn’t, the week played out somewhat differently.
“[It was] pretty much the same as any other July night,” said Erin Wallace of business at her Bella Vista beer bar Devil’s Den. Her sentiment was echoed by Chris Fetfatzes of Hawthornes, the Cambridge and Tio Flores, and also by Leigh Maida, who co-owns five venues across the city.
“Not much difference! Even at Strangelove’s, smack dab in the middle of town,” Maida said. “Maybe a slight uptick, but nothing worth calling a big deal.”
Monk’s Cafe, a popular tourist destination, also didn’t see any change from its usual summer biz, although managers did spot many convention badges, as well as demonstrators “getting refreshed” with mussels and Belgian beer. Geraldo stopped in for lunch one day, and was found to be “very polite and gracious.”
The various restaurants of the Vetri Family saw a lot of convention business. High-end venues like Osteria and Vetri hosted several private parties and events, and walk-in-traffic was busy at more casual spots like Amis and Pizzeria Vetri. Like at OCF Coffee, which saw sales increase from Monday to Thursday, Vetri COO Jeff Benjamin noticed a shift as the week progressed.
“Party sizes continually increased as [delegates] ran into their friends at the convention and invited them to join,” Benjamin said. “It was fun to witness all the out-of-towners enjoying Philly!”