Attracting diners in city with more seats than residents

Attracting diners in city with more seats than residents

In a “crazy competitive food town” on the Seacoast of New Hampshire, the number of seats for prospective dining patrons now outpaces the actual population of the city.

That statistic, first reported in 2013 by local newspaper the Portsmouth Herald posed the question in its headline of the Sept. 4 story outlining the restaurant boom: “Is Portsmouth being overrun by restaurants?

Maine lobsters at The Oar House Restaurant
Maine lobsters at The Oar House Restaurant, Portsmouth, N.H.

Reporting that the city had 156 food-service permits issued that same year, and that the city itself had 22,417 available seats for a population that hovered around 21,000, restaurants like the venerable and historic The Oar House, took notice.

“This is a crazy competitive food town,” says Oar House front-of-house manager Chad Massidda. “I’ve been here for three years, and can tell you that owners Ray Guerin and Peter DiZoglio get the credit for our amazing longevity.”

The Oar House, which is located in an 1800s-warehouse space once used for grain and molasses storage, has been attracting patrons to its doors and river-side deck for a long, long time. Established in the mid-1970s, it was purchased by its current owners in the early 1990s. And it just keeps chugging along, much like the iconic little red tug boats docked nearby.

In this week’s brief 3-question Q&A with Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand, Massidda discusses how The Oar House rides the waves of trends and competition and still comes up on top.

Boxerbrand: What’s the secret to your longevity?

Wow, that’s a tough one. I think consistency is the best answer. I’ve been here for three years and we were very established when I arrived. Our owners Ray Guerin and Peter DiZoglio have been doing this since the early 90s.

We’re consistent in our approach to food, our longtime clientele, and even aesthetically, we’ve remained largely unchanged.

We know our clients very well. Our great staff know many people in the community, and those relationships are also factors in our ongoing success.

Boxerbrand: With all the competition, how does The Oar House stay relevant?

One of the great things about being in Portsmouth, and on Ceres Street, is that all the restaurants try to help each other. We work as a team, along with the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, to promote the downtown, and each other, so that all the Ceres Street restaurants help makeup a thriving scene.

Our menu and our waterfront location also help bring patrons to our door. We have a deck overlooking the Piscataqua River and the tugboats, and we make the most of our beautiful location. With the menu, we keep it current, while maintaining an old New England touch to the food.

Boxerbrand: What advice do you have for new restaurants coming online?

Go for it! But, your heart really needs to be into it. If you’re heart’s not there, it’s not going to succeed. It’s not easy work.

— The Oar House uses Boxerbrand menu covers in its table presentation. Thank you!

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