On a campus ruled by cafeterias, food courts and lunch trucks, one restaurant is out to disrupt the norm.
The Draught Horse, once an off-campus outcast with little reputation, now works hard to find itself favored by the Temple community, which it faithfully serves. With a revamped menu and performance schedule, as well as a special events list for almost every night of the week, the restaurant is under new management and looking to be seen in a new light.
“Everything is different,” said Chris Thames, general manager and executive chef of the Draught Horse.
Thames, who also goes by “Chef,” speaks highly of his almost entirely new staff.
“You need good people around you, and the staff level here is incredible,” he said. “This is the first year we’ve been fully staffed and trained before the semester started. It feels good to have all the ducks in a row.”
All the work that the staff has put into reviving the Draught Horse started somewhere and with someone. That someone was Thames, who took matters into his own hands.
“I actually demoted myself from corporate chef of [the company’s] four restaurants,” Thames said. “I wanted to focus all my energy on the Draught Horse. It was being run differently than what the Temple community was asking for. I got feedback from everywhere, from word of mouth to personally talking to customers, a lot of different ideas and concepts were thrown at me.”
Thames decided to update the menu after the restaurant’s interior received a facelift, including a new sound system and new televisions.
“I tried to focus on food quality, and now what you get is what you pay for,” Thames said. “No more baskets, but real plates. We’re even doing catering.”
Thames said he puts in 60 to 70 hours a week at the Draught Horse, including talking to patrons in hopes of receiving important feedback.
“[I speak to them] just after the first bite, so I can see how they really feel,” he said.
He doesn’t hesitate to credit the communication and leadership among his staff as a major factor in the restaurant’s rebuilding.
While some of the serving staff members are new to the restaurant, four seasoned managers work to cover everything that Thames can’t. The managers supervise the kitchen, dining room service, the bar and bands and promotions. Thames said that giving each manager his own area of leadership has been a key to the new success of the Draught Horse.
Jake Weaver began as a busboy three years ago and now serves as the bands and promotions manager. He takes pride in the expanded schedule, as well as the eatery’s reinvigorated outreach to the Temple community.
“I feel like we’re talking to all entities of Temple, and they’re talking back,” Weaver said.
Greek Night, an event targeted to graduate students and a variety of other promotions are all part of Weaver’s focus.
“We’re trying to take Temple to a place where we can be recognized citywide, as a place where students can go instead of feeling like they have to leave campus,” he said.
Dining room manager Cristiana Monohan agrees with Weaver when it comes to the new and improved morale among the group.
“Everybody is excited. [The serving staff’s] goal is to meet new people and get repeat customers to come in more often,” Monohan said. “I’ve been here for six years. We have a great team now and great things going on.”
People are starting to notice. Seniors Lauren Kinkle, a marketing major, and Kathleen Verceglio, an international business and marketing major, are pleased by the changes that have taken place.
“It’s a great place to hang out, even during the week,” Verceglio said. “I’ve noticed an improvement in the menu and all the staff seems really nice.”
Kinkle said Thames even made a visit to their table during her most recent visit.
“Yeah, [Thames] stopped by. I’d never met him before, but he was really nice,” she said.
So the movement is under way. Thames still has visions of an Internet and student lounge to complement the restaurant’s already-existing Wi-Fi access, and maybe even an espresso machine to go along with the newly added Pony Express, a take-out alternative.
“We have the restaurant, take-out and now the Cherry Pit is our down and dirty place for students to really enjoy themselves,” he said. “I feel like the Draught Horse is a coming-of-age place for Temple students from when they first eat here to when they can drink here.
“We have our loyal customers and everybody that hasn’t enjoyed us in the past should come back and give us another chance. We’re so much better than we’ve ever been,” Thames said.
Gabriel Katz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.