This past weekend, parents, siblings and relatives flocked to Grinnell from around the country to attend Family Weekend, an annual tradition at the College. Because all students can at times get bored with Dining Hall food, many see Family Weekend as the perfect opportunity to get off campus and dine at local businesses.
“It’s our busiest fall weekend,” said Kamal Hammouda, Grinnell’s Adjunct Religious Life Leader and the chef at Relish.
According to Hammouda and Prairie Canary employees, Family Weekend is one of the busiest weekends of the year, along with graduation.
In terms of numbers, Sam Cox, the owner of Saint’s Rest, had some insight.
“On Saturday we saw almost a 60 percent bump [in business],” Cox said. On Friday and Sunday Saint’s Rest experienced a smaller but still significant bump of 40 percent.
To be able to manage such a sudden and short-lived influx of customers, businesses have to prepare.
“Typically on a Friday or Saturday night we’ll have four servers, and each of the two nights [of Family Weekend] we had eight servers instead,” said Sadie Tristam ’17. “We decided to cut down the menu to the most popular items and the ones that are quickest for the kitchen to get out so that customers wouldn’t have to wait very long.”
Prairie Canary also gave their staff a break between the lunch and dinner shifts and held a meeting the night before to help everyone mentally prepare.
Relish’s menu stayed the same but the restaurant increased staff and seating.
“For family weekend we open one room upstairs for backup,” Hammouda said. “No staff can have time off that weekend.”
Cox wanted all of her staff to be prepared for long lines and a high-pressure environment—something many may have not worked with before.
“[We] always try to have a little meeting, a little pep rally if you will,” Cox said.
Cox ensures there are enough supplies and ingredients available so none of her employees have to run to get things while customers are waiting.
According to Hammouda, Family Weekend generates about five percent of Relish’s fall revenue. There’s no denying this extra traffic is good for the businesses’ bottom lines.
“I think any business in town, especially the service-oriented … have a huge monetary gain,” Cox said. “For me it’s that time of year when I can either stock up on extra product or pay off extra bills.”
Despite the challenges it inevitably brings, most felt the weekend went well this year.
“It was very hectic but we had a really good staff this year, and I think we prepared for it enough that it went really smoothly,” Tristam said.
A stressful work environment is not always an unpleasant work environment.
“[Enjoyment and stress] aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s stress that I’m used to,” Hammouda said.
“It’s super stressful going into it and it’s super stressful living through it, but it’s always a joy,” Cox said. “It’s a boon for us and we’re so grateful and thankful to have those people. They’re all nice and they’re all happy. Everyone’s in a good mood, they love to see their kids.”