Mother’s Day restaurant crowds smaller than usual

Demand slower in first weekend Back to Business

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 11, 2020 11:08 AM CT | Published: May 10, 2020 7:30 PM CT

The first weekend in which restaurants could open with limitations — coupled with Mother’s Day — still translated to small crowds Saturday, May 9, and Sunday, May 10.

Shelby County’s “Back to Business” plan allows 50% capacity at dining establishments. Some of the restaurants hardly reached a half-filled dining room, if they opened at all.

Curbside pickup was an option seized by some as clientele tried to overcome concerns about easing back into the restaurants. The choices between returning to dining in and taking home meals at least helped ease the lack of business on what routinely is a big day for dining. 

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Usually children are running around Paulette’s Restaurant in Harbor Town, but Sunday the crowd was smaller in size and older in age.

Beata Gaye, general manager, said Paulette’s was fairly busy given the circumstances, and she was grateful for the business.

“We’ve been booked most of the day,” Gaye said. “There’s limited seating and limited tables, but there were also many to-go orders.”


In the restaurant, there were several couples enjoying a meal and a few families. Paulette’s offered a special menu for Mother’s Day.

Lamb, lobster, she-crab soup and filet mignon were among the selections. For dessert, guests had the option of pecan chocolate cheesecake or raspberry white chocolate bread pudding. Some specials were available for pick-up, and many ordered in advance.

Staff wore masks as they greeted guests and brought food to the tables.

“We’re taking all kinds of precautions,” Gaye said. “Service is a little different, but it’s still great.”

Usually tables at Paulette’s are set with silverware and water. Now guests sit down at their table, which only has a vase of flowers. After they are seated, glasses of water and silverware wrapped in cloth are brought out.

“There are sanitizers all over the place,” Gaye added. “We have single-use menus and are trying to keep distance.” 

Soul Fish Cafe opened at 11 a.m. in Germantown. About six people were there, including two police officers. A couple with their kids and grandkids doubled the crowd around 11:30 a.m. 

“Curbside has been really busy,” Jill Edwards, the restaurant manager, said from behind her mask. “People are also starting to feel comfortable coming in to get their to-go orders.”

Curbside has made up for the lack of dining in, she said. Many chose take-out.

Staff is getting back into the rhythm of work and a lot of their staff returned, she said. 

“Sundays we usually see the church crowd,” she said, but she didn’t expect it on Mother’s Day as many churches remain closed. 

“Each day has gotten better for us,” she added.

She noted as more people became aware of the precautions restaurants are following, they are more willing to sit down at a restaurant.

Walker Taylor’s Collierville Commissary drive-thru line was long around 11:40 a.m. Wright Cox, Collierville board of education vice chairman, was among many picking up lunch to take home. 

A sign up front read “We love our moms.” The black letters were surrounded in red with the staff members’ mothers’ names.

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Staff took the names of customers, walked back to the kitchen, grabbed the bags of food and rang up the orders.

Taylor said about 60 people visited Germantown Commissary Saturday. The restaurant can sit 75 at a time.

In Collierville, he saw another small crowd. The restaurant can seat 250, but 168 total people visited Saturday.

“It’s still slow,” Taylor said. “But carryout has been strong.”

Last year for Mother’s Day his Collierville restaurant was packed, but he attributed the success to the “honeymoon phase” as it had been open about three months.

In Southwind, cars zoomed along Winchester Road. The shopping centers seemed busy and the Half Shell was serving up Mothers’ Day Specials.

A couple of quiches, grouper fillet, redfish, beef tenderloin, crab lumps and red velvet cake were among the specials. About 12:30 p.m., the restaurant had about as many customers as staff. 

“Those who made reservations made sure we were taking precautions,” Brad Allbritten, general manager said, adding that many requested to eat on the recently painted patio.

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“People feel comfortable sitting outside,” he noted.

It also gave them the opportunity to spread out and enjoy the nice weather.

“We’re usually reservation-driven on Mother’s Day,” he said.

However, Sunday lunch guests could walk in and sit down immediately for lunch.

For the Southwind restaurant, business increased over the weekend.

“Friday we had a dramatic increase,” he said. “To-go sales have remained strong.”

Half Shell has additional staff due to the demand of to-go orders.

Several local restaurants prepared for Mother’s Day by selling pre-orders for meal kits in the week prior to the holiday food service.

“We always do brunch on Saturday and Sunday mornings, throughout this pandemic. (Sunday) will be a busier day than normal, but it will be nice and busy,” Catherine & Mary’s general manager Alec Dawson said Saturday.

“People are taking advantage of it, to have a nice, little brunch at the house, as they may not feel safe going out and dining.”

Amerigo Italian Restaurant employed a similar strategy for their Mother’s Day customers.

“We did a similar construct on Easter, and decided to do it again for Mother’s Day,” said general manager Andrew Fischer.

For many other restaurants, such as Mahogany and Char, diners could prepare to enjoy the typical items they love from existing menus with curbside service. Restaurants management still considered when they might open their dining rooms.

“We have an overwhelming group of people wanting to pick up and take their food home,” said Char’s general manager Aubri Luckey.

While there still were plenty of customers who wanted to stay with the norm of the past several weeks and pick up meals, restaurants saw more people dining in.

Still, many restaurants are relying on their takeout and curbside offers. 

“There was some traffic. I think as the days go by, more guests will be willing to go out,” said Kevin McDonald, general manager of Flying Saucer Draught Emporium in Cordova.

The restaurant reopened on Monday, May 4 and had a decent night Friday.

“We removed tables to get down to 50% capacity, but there was never a point where they were all full or we had to use a wait list,” he said.

The tables were spaced 6 feet apart, and the 80-foot bar where a large number of patrons often mingled is reduced to three sections of three chairs.

“People aren’t allowed to sit together that don’t reside in the same household,” McDonald said.

Cool weather Friday night kept the normally busy patio area less full than normal – just a handful of occupied tables, all spaced a proper distance apart. Flying Saucer employees wore face masks and gloves, and many guests arrived with face coverings.

One upside to Flying Saucer’s curbside business is the ability to sell alcoholic beverages to-go under new guidelines since the shutdown.

“So, we’ve been able to fill growlers and things like that, that we’ve never been able to do before,” McDonald said. “My guess is they won’t pull that until we all go back to 100% capacity.”

Editor’s Note: The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed. Our journalists continue to work around the clock to provide you with the extensive coverage you need; if you can subscribe, please do

Staff reporter Jared Boyd and freelancer Michael Waddell contributed to this report.


Mother's Day Restaurants take-out menu Back to Business
Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a graduate of the University of Memphis. She has worked for several local publications and covers the suburbs for The Daily Memphian.


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