How did one business survive six—what should have been—fatal obstacles in the span of less than 30 months?
Some unfortunate and unexpected complications can easily put those set up for success out of business. The Charles River Bistro and The Anthem Group’s success on the Esplanade is proof that with perseverance, adaptability and the right likeminded team, a business can evolve to flourish—no matter the magnitude of an obstacle.
The Esplanade is a gorgeous 3-mile stretch of parkland in Boston, MA that houses the iconic DCR Hatch Shell Amphitheater and world class events like the Independence Day Celebrations. Anthem is responsible for all food and beverage services on the Esplanade, which includes the daily management of a contemporary restaurant with Parisian style seating and an outdoor lounge—now called The Charles River Bistro—as well as the DCR Hatch Shell concessions and hospitality service throughout the entire park.
Upon taking ownership of food and beverage service on the Esplanade in 2013, Anthem faced the immense challenge of establishing its own identity, brand and reputation while scrubbing the poor reputation of the previous operator. This reputation was the result of several years of horrible neglect in every regard—the daily restaurant facility, food and beverage quality for major events at the DCR Hatch Shell and hospitality services—that left both event producers and patrons extremely turned off from the establishment and all offerings.
While changing public perception was difficult enough, Anthem faced frequent unforeseen and abnormal incidents. Despite strong planning and preparation, Anthem was left to utilize its experience and abilities to adapt and evolve on the fly.
Anthem’s first season on the Esplanade commenced in the immediate aftermath of a major terrorism act the Boston Marathon Bombings. Over the inaugural 15 months of operation, Anthem continually adjusted to the constant evolution of changing security and event procedures to ensure public safety. In light of recent attacks, the public feared large scale public events regardless of the tremendous increase in security. Although enhanced security ensured public safety, the changes in protocols impacted both Anthem and The Charles River Bistro by forcing their staff to often take immediate and sometimes sudden action. Altering logistical and security procedures—in addition to the public’s apprehension—lead to complicated event production and an overall decrease in event attendance. In turn, food and beverage sales also dropped across the board.
Curve balls continued to be thrown at Anthem and The Charles River Bistro. In 2014, the first hurricane recorded in history to hit New England in July struck on Independence Day. Hurricane Arthur caused the entire Independence Day Celebrations to move up a day to July 3rd—the first time the event was rescheduled since 1992. As one might imagine, this resulted in a near inconceivable operational challenge, severe decrease in attendance and wasted food product. The typical two-day event was now condensed into a five-hour window, which amplified the logistical nightmares and non-utilized resources.
Following the sudden changes in large scale events, came the DCR Hatch Shell grass oval renovations. The grass oval, the luscious stomping ground for the iconic amphitheater was closed for nine months from the tail-end of 2014 and into the late spring of 2015. This entirely eliminated all large events that traditionally occurred on the Esplanade during the spring season, diminishing all food and beverage sales in the park once again. Further, The Bistro’s utilities, which are buried below ground, were accidentally damaged during this renovation, causing The Charles River Bistro to delay its restaurant operation.
The weather continued to hamper Anthem’s Esplanade operations. The historic Boston snowfall in Boston in 2015—a total accumulation of 108.6 inches—resulted in the need for additional maintenance to The Charles River Bistro, also delaying the restaurant’s opening. Most recently, Anthem and The Charles River Bistro witnessed one of the coldest Aprils in Boston yet, followed by rain 14 out of the first 15 days of May.
Anthem managed to jump all of these hurdles all while investing over a quarter million into an inherited restaurant facility that was beyond disrepair and several hundred thousand more into the park-wide food and beverage operation. Anthem and The Charles River Bistro currently now exceeds all standards of patron expectations in all facets of the business. The Bistro now has a plethora of regular customers daily, a tremendous social media following and is highly photographed and reviewed by patrons. It took time to erase the old image, overcome our learning curve and surpass several major obstacles, but we have now hit our stride and the public satisfaction is not only noted—but greatly appreciated.
None of this would have been possible without Anthem’s dedicated primary team—Ashley, Megan, Corey and Emily—as they worked countless hours to adapt with unforeseen circumstances and assisting in the evolution of the operation. The Bistro would not be here today without The Bistro’s current and former management team—Erik, Pamela and David—who literally helped get The Bistro off of the ground during its earliest months. Plus, contributors like Tom, Mike and Chad. I am fortunate to have Bistro staff like Kevina, Tyler and Connor who have poured their heart and soul into helping The Bistro reach new heights from management and customer service standpoints. And, of course, our two chefs, Vinnie and Andrew who lead a talented team.
My business was able to adapt, evolve and continue fighting because I have the right team that shared the same mind set. With a team you can count on, the right concern and effort from everyone involved—and with some good fortune sprinkled in despite the obstacles—businesses can survive even the seemingly insurmountable. However, it takes constant teamwork and effort.