According to the president of Neighborhood Dining Group, which in July shut down its storied property with two weeks’ notice, approximately 15 former McCrady’s Tavern employees were transferred to the forthcoming seafood restaurant on Calhoun Street. David Howard credits the experienced workers with bringing practiced hospitality skills to Delaney, so guests on Sept. 5 aren’t greeted by a crew of “nervous Nellies.”
“It makes me feel pretty good about things,” Howard says. “We’re excited about the new team here. I hope when people taste the food, they can taste the enthusiasm.”
When NDG closed McCrady’s Tavern, Howard pledged to help its laid-off workers find other jobs within the company. Husk Savannah and Husk Nashville are among the restaurants which have absorbed displaced employees.
“I probably did a better job than a lot of other places that closed down instantly,” Howard says, pointing out that NDG hired McCrady’s Tavern team members to clean up the Unity Alley space which the company took over in 2006, in addition to offering a short-term extension of health benefits.
Still, he concedes he wasn’t able to arrange lateral moves for all of the upscale restaurant’s salaried employees. For example, former employees say highly placed chefs were offered line cook jobs at Husk and Delaney. And general manager Tommy Marcinko, who joined NDG around the time that the company split McCrady’s into the Tavern and tasting counter, hasn’t yet been reassigned.
“I did not have a spot for him and that’s tough,” Howard says. “We only have 6-7 (general manager positions) in the company, and he’s not going to want to relocate out of town.”
Howard allows that the McCrady’s Tavern closure was somewhat abrupt, but stands by his decision not to conceal the company’s interest in selling its building.
“Then I’ve got to walk (prospective buyers) through the restaurant and tell everyone they’re insurance people,” he says. “I find that to be a little bit of a charade, and I didn’t want to do that. I felt giving a couple of weeks’ notice and an extension of benefits was respectful.”
Despite the workforce carryover, Howard stresses Delaney will diverge in significant ways from McCrady’s Tavern, which was functioning somewhat like a steakhouse in its final months. At Delaney, Howard says, “Our menu is designed more for sharing smaller plates: It’s not large platters.”
The restaurant is also smaller, with 55 seats in the dining room and seven seats at the bar. “This is a tiny house,” Howard says. “It’s not dissimilar in proportion to The Bar at Husk. A lot of people’s private-residence kitchens are bigger than our kitchen.”
Because of its size, Delaney won’t take reservations.
“I realize that may cause frustration, but when you have a tiny restaurant, no-shows have a significant effect on us as an operation,” Howard says. “The reality is, if I take reservations, I’m going to have to charge a lot more for entrees, and I just don’t want to charge a lot more for entrees. We want to do something different and create a different atmosphere.”
Delaney Oyster House, 115 Calhoun St., will open at 11:30 a.m. on weekdays and noon on weekends. It will close between lunch and dinner service from 2:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. For more information, visit delaneyoysterhouse.com.