WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Celebrity Chef Lindsay Autry's 'The Regional' has sat dormant for 17 months at The Square in West Palm Beach (formally called CityPlace). And this Thursday, she and her partner are ready to reopen the restaurant after closing because of complications from the coronavirus pandemic.
Taste & See South Florida's Interview with Chef Lindsay Autry
Autry said she decided to close her establishment in Aug. of 2020 in order to preserve what they had built over the last five years, "I think sometimes people forget when they see how grandiose and beautiful this restaurant is that we're also locals, you know, and it does take a lot of penny-pinching to make it work and I really didn't want to see it go away."
Autry said in 2019, they were able to make enough money to stay current with rent and other bills while they were closed.
But reopening isn't just turning on the lights, dusting off the menus, and lighting up the grills, it's like opening up for the first time but with new pandemic-area problems to solve.
Industry-wide labor shortages have affected 'The Regional's' reboot, "I'm not going to sugarcoat it and say that it's been super easy to staff the restaurant. It hasn't. I feel very fortunate that I have about five people that have been with me for a little over 10 years."
"You know, for me, I love to teach people and I love to watch my staff and my employees grow and move on to other great things. I wasn't expecting a lot of them to go into real estate or construction or different things. I kind of want to get them back. I'm not done with them yet," joked Autry with her usual North Carolina charm.
The Supply Chain
Shortages and increased costs on 'everything' is forcing tweaks to the menu, "I mean, I don't think anybody's been able to find cream cheese in like three weeks, not even me, [and] I feel like I know everybody," laughed Autry.
According to industry experts, restaurants need to operate at about 20% profit in order to be successful. But because of rising costs, that might be difficult. "Everything is more expensive [now]; gloves, paper towels, meat, fish," said the James Beard-nominated chef.
Big congrats to Chef Lindsay Autry @eatregional for earning a spot in this year's semifinals for the James Beard Award for best chef in the South. Rock on, Palm Beach County! #jbfa pic.twitter.com/7fwbjmLkso— Liz Balmaseda (@LizBalmaseda) February 26, 2020
Chef said customers shouldn't worry about mainstay favorites like Fried Chicken, Tomatoes Pie, and Pimento Cheese: They will still be on the menu, "You can expect [a] little bit of an elevated version of what we were doing before."
Autry believes having the right mindset during the pandemic is important, "There has been a lot of focus on the negative [and] I'm really trying to approach this in a very positive way that we're excited to be open."
Why Reopen Now?
Chef Autry said she and her partner wanted to reopen when the season started in 2021 but there were some obstacles to overcome, "[We wanted to be] here for Kravis [reopening] and for season and [to] really take [advantage] of the situation. Unfortunately, we had a few really major mechanical issues that we had to deal with as well,"
Autry said there was an air conditioning repair and damage from a water main break to contend with first, "It delayed us a little bit more because we had to take the time and fix some things and we want to reopen right you know,."
When customers visit they can expect a rebranded pub area, called Mockingbird, which will debut in a few weeks.
'The Regional' will be open Wednesday - Sunday starting at 5 p.m. nightly then expanding hours as demand warrants.
More to Come...
Relaunching 'The Regional' is just one of many projects Autry is working on. She just wrapped up the annual Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival in December and is opening a new restaurant in Palm Beach Gardens, "I am opening another restaurant inside of the newly renovated PGA National Resort. It's called Honeybelle."
Autry, a mom of a two-year-old, said her "good team" and channeling her "inner unicorn" will make it all happen.