What a long, strange trip it has been
This past weekend Minuteman Diner marked their third anniversary. Opening a new restaurant is hard under any circumstances. Nationally, about one-third of all new restaurants close within a year of opening. Add to that, a pandemic, inflation, supply chain issues, and labor shortages- it really is quite an accomplishment.
To find out how they are doing I drove down to see their third-year celebration. The celebration was complete with balloons and a photo booth just for fun. The answer to how they were doing was answered immediately, as all the tables were full and there was a line waiting to get in. It really had the feeling of a community event, complete with Girl Scouts selling cookies by the front door.
When I finally got in, the tables were full with a lot of smiling faces, both from the customers and the staff. I sat down with owner Diane Cohen to ask her about the last three years.
Diane said she opened the diner in January 2020 after several months of delays due to equipment update requirements. Less than two months into their new venture, Covid-19 shuttered everything. With the Governor closing down all non-essential businesses on March 24 she knew she had to change her plan to survive. Diane pivoted and started offering take out family meals and expanded the takeout business. When Suzanne Koller heard about this, she launched her “Feeding the Soul” initiative to help struggling restaurants as well as feeding frontline workers during the early days of the pandemic.
Responding to a Simple Call, Operation Feed the Soul has Flourished – The Bedford Citizen – April 21, 2020
As the weather improved and restrictions slowly lifted in the summer of 2020, Minuteman pivoted to outdoor dining. They took over part of the parking lot and kept things flowing outside. Diane even bought her own Jersey barriers and hired local artist Sarah Scoville to paint them.
Diane attributes the Diner’s success to her great staff and the community. When I was there, the staff all had big smiles on their faces. Diane seems to know everyone who comes to her diner too.
As I was chatting with Diane, Phil, one of the regulars, sat down beside me, greeted by a friendly smile from Diane. Phil says, with a little laugh, that he eats there several times a week. He said there really are very few places that serve breakfast in the area, which he loves.
Diane mentioned that breakfast is a real draw; she has people who come in from surrounding towns because “we’re really the only ones that serve a traditional breakfast during the week.” She added, “We offer full breakfast all day, every day, and at night, we get $200 orders at night just for breakfast.”
Minuteman Diner’s original plan was to have full dinner service six days a week. They have a full liquor license, but staffing issues have kept them limited to breakfast and lunch. Just recently, they started opening back up for dinner on Thursdays through Saturdays. Their plan is to open up for dinner six days a week in the near future.
Other plans include bringing trivia in on Thursday nights with music, and maybe Keno possibly down the road.
Diane says she absolutely loves the diner, her staff, and her customers. This really is her happy place.