PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — If you have driven along PGA Boulevard during the Honda Classic, you know how busy the restaurants get. Last year was a bit slower because of COVID-19, but that is changing this year.
Beyond the course, this tournament means so much for local restaurants that are recovering from a tough couple of years.
It's one of these busiest weeks for restaurants along PGA Boulevard. Fans pack the area after watching the Honda Classic at nearby PGA National.
"This week looks like it will be really, really busy," said Rocco Mangel, co-owner of Rocco's Tacos.
The Honda Classic brings in fans from all over the country. It's a welcome sight for Mangel. Last year, his restaurant was closed during the tournament because of a kitchen fire. He and his staff are ready for fans to return.
"They are excited. I'm excited," Mangel said. "All of the golf fans are excited. It should be a great week."
Down the road, this will be the first Honda Classic experience for Prezzo owner Eddie Pozzuoli.
"We talked to some of our neighbor restaurants, and they're like, 'You guys have no idea what to expect.' And I'm like, 'We're ready for it,'" Pozzuoli said. "I hear it's a great party. I hear it's a lot of fun, great energy."
The restaurant opened in late November, just before another wave of the coronavirus.
"We've really focused on keeping our team together and doing whatever we can to keep as many people as employed as employed as possible," Pozzuoli said.
Both Pozzuoli and Mangel said things are rebounding as more and more people eat out. They also said the challenge of hiring staff is getting better, but employees from the owners' other locations will be brought in to help with the expected large crowds.
"We do have some staffing shortages," Mangel said. "Things might not be the same as they were before the pandemic. So if you do come in here and we are really busy, just be nice, and we will be nice back."
"We want to have a good time with our guests. We want to make sure that they leave here saying, 'Wow, that was more than just a typical restaurant experience,'" Pozzuoli said.
Last year's Honda Classic winner, Matt Jones, said in his news conference earlier this month that Limoncello and Rocco's Tacos are his favorites during the Honda Classic week.