David Fhima has been saying for months that he would reopen his namesake downtown Minneapolis restaurant for lunch when companies in the district start earnestly bringing workers back to the office.
Last week, he accelerated that plan, relaunching lunch at the glitzy Art Deco restaurant five days a week, despite only a trickle of workers filling cubicles.
"I'm tried of saying, hey, guys, bring your people," Fhima said. "I decided I'm going to bring mine, and lead by example."
Fhima's Minneapolis isn't the only place where power lunches are resuming. This week, Manny's Steakhouse, a hot spot for corporate wine-and-dine accounts, reopened for lunch — and breakfast, too.
It wasn't because of an increase in foot traffic — there hasn't been much of that, said Donna Fahs of Parasole Restaurant Holdings, which operates Manny's. Rather, the restaurant's partner hotel, the W, "really wanted us and asked us" to bring back breakfast and lunch as hotel occupancy had begun to increase. Arriving with those travelers are more business meetings, Manny's bread and butter.
Of the restaurants that stayed open for lunch through the pandemic-related emptying of downtown, hotel eateries kept some of the most consistent daytime hours. But even in the skyways, stalwart food vendors held on and are finally starting to see office customers come back, especially midweek.
Still, the absence of large numbers of employees from companies like Target, which earlier this year announced workers could choose whether or not to work in the office, has taken a big bite out of downtown lunch.
On the first day of lunch at Manny's, "we only had 17 customers," Fahs said. "But we'll take them."
Fhima said he hopes his decision will encourage other restaurateurs to join him in welcoming the wedge salad set. With more dining downtown, he is betting on more companies returning to in-person work.
"I do think it's positive actions building on themselves," he said. "If I do it, another restaurant does it, and maybe Target will bring more people. That's what made me do it."