Paul Holder, managing partner of Town Hall, looks back on the past 10 years and the factors that have made the restaurant a success.
Q: Town Hall has been in Glover Park for 10 years now. How have things changed for the business? How has the neighborhood changed?
A: I would say that both we as operators and the restaurant as a business have matured over the last decade. Beyond the ever-changing neighborhood and the need to meet those shifting demands, we ourselves have grown up, have had families, etc., and that brings a different perspective to the guest experience that we might not have had 10 years ago. For example, the idea of having baby-changing tables in the bathrooms would never have entered our minds a decade ago. Having 7 kids between all 5 partners will change that thinking.
Q: Any plans for a big 10-year celebration?
A: We’ll certainly be doing something towards the end of the summer. We’re still in the planning stages, but the best way to stay abreast of our events is to follow us on our social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Q: Spring is coming. Are there any special events on the calendar?
A: Our biggest event of the year is always Spring Gold Cup on the first Saturday in May. We take 10 busloads of partygoers to the races and then host them at our private tents. Beyond that, look for monthly weekend events on our outdoor courtyard throughout the summer.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge with owning a restaurant?
A: Consistency is always the biggest challenge. We can’t have bad days, especially in a neighborhood market like ours. It’s not like we’re downtown where a new tourist will walk by the next day. We depend on our neighbors and converting each new diner into a repeat guest. If we have a bad day and screw up someone’s first visit to Town Hall, we might never get a chance to win them over again.
Q: What’s the most popular item on the menu?
A: Currently it’s probably the DC rolls or the pork chop with macaroni and goat cheese. Both are pretty iconic TH dishes and remain on the menu regardless of season. We did just roll out our spring menu, so stop in and let us know if you have a new favorite.
Q: Running a restaurant today is not what it used to be with social media and restaurant review sites like Yelp and OpenTable. What type of social media do you use? And how do you deal with these type of reviews, both good and bad?
A: We embrace our platforms like Facebook and Instagram, and review sites like OpenTable and TripAdvisor are great tools for both the diner and the restaurant. Yelp, on the other hand, while originally well intended, has somewhat lost its way. I think it would be challenging to find a restaurateur who holds a high opinion of the site and its business practices.
Q: I am sure you must have some funny stories after 10 years in the business. Care to share any?
A: Well, there was that time when Joe Biden came in for dinner on St. Patrick’s Day ... We do have lots of funny stories, but we like to keep people coming back. Your secrets are safe with us!
Q: How do you keep up with the microbrew market these days? Seems like a new hot microbrew is hitting the market every day.
A: We really just focus on having a wide variety of good beers. We certainly make an effort to support local breweries whenever practical, and we like to have a good cross section of different styles and flavor profiles, but we don’t get too caught up in trying to feature the splashiest new brewery.
Q: What role does your staff play in the success of your restaurant? Do they get any special training on learning the menu, etc.?
A: We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the staff we have. They work very hard, and there’s always ongoing training to make sure we’re maintaining our standards. We have been very fortunate over the last 10 years, and we still have some Day 1 hires in our ranks. We also have staff who have met here, gotten married, and started families of their own. Our staff really is a family in every sense of the word.