When I meet someone considering opening a restaurant, the first question I ask is: “Why would you do this to yourself?” I don’t know a restaurant owner who can truly cut that ball and chain. Murphy’s Law seems to apply more often than not, and not everyone has the stomach for it.
Patrick and Sue O’Reilly have taken on ownership of a new restaurant/bar in Scarborough. Ask the locals and they will tell you how grateful they are to have something other than a pizza or fast food restaurant in Scarborough. It’s a mystery why a town of this size, so close to Portland has not become home to more eateries.
O’Reilly’s Cure was clearly given a good deal of thought. It’s a beautiful space, high ceilings, an expansive bar, lots of light, an open outdoor space and several large television screens for the sports enthusiasts in our area. So what possessed Patrick and Sue to take this on?
When did you start thinking about opening a restaurant?
Patrick: We have always kind of thought about it and have spent a lifetime really noodling it about as we dined at restaurants and visited bars in all of our travels. We will be becoming empty nesters in a couple years and Sue wanted a new challenge after running our other business and raising our two daughters.
Sue: At least 10 years ago, I kept throwing ideas out on renovating our home to a restaurant. It wasn’t easy since our home was at least 150 years old and meeting code proved to be difficult.
Did you agree on a restaurant venture from the start?
Patrick: It was always going to be a restaurant and bar and only in Scarborough. In fact, we only considered a stretch of Route One in the center of town for a location. ... We really love our hometown and we wanted to make a special place for folks in town.
Sue: I think the entrepreneur in both of us eventually came to the conclusion that we wanted to dive into the restaurant business.
Did the concept change over time?
Patrick: Yes, somewhat, but we always wanted to have it be a restaurant first and foremost. We had a struggle with the name because, being named O’Reilly, there was a fear that people were going to assume or expect a traditional Irish pub, but we wanted to be "the" local restaurant in the center of town.
Sue: We initially thought of the pub idea and Patrick probably would’ve been happy with that, but I was struggling with it. I wanted more of restaurant and bar atmosphere that appealed to a broader audience.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
Patrick: In the site we ended up with we had a space constrained by a couple stairwells and an elevator area which left us with only a few options as to layout. We ended up with a kitchen that is farther from the main dining area than is optimal. Another issue was parking as the site only had about 85 spaces. We were able to negotiate the lease so that additional parking would be installed shortly after our opening to bring the total spaces up to about 110 which is also about the number of seats in the restaurant.
Sue: Patrick and I were in the hospitality business, but not in food service so there was a big learning curve. It was important to us to hire experienced staff, and we have friends in the business who have supported and shared valuable information.
Would you change any part of the process if you could?
Patrick: Because neither of us was going to be the chef, we set a draft menu and had to choose and order the kitchen equipment using that. When we got to the point where we hired the chef and modified the concept menu further, there was a misalignment with the equipment and some layout in the back of the house. I would have focused more on menu development earlier in the process if possible.
Sue: If only we knew what we know now. There are a lot of things we would have done differently but the major one is how we laid out the kitchen. Our next restaurant will be even better!
Has the community embraced the restaurant?
Patrick: Yes, the local enthusiasm has been tremendous. ... There was a huge buildup of anticipation for the opening, and I think there were some expectations that people had because of our name or menu that caused some disappointment, but we are continually evaluating our performance and offerings to provide the best customer experience that we can.
Sue: Yes, the community seems to be happy that we opened a place where they can meet with friends, family and co-workers. Many have commented that they would run into people they haven’t seen in a while and it's like a reunion.
Anything we should look out for in the future?
Patrick: We will be open for lunches starting this week and are honing our daily menu items so that we can stabilize the back of the house work load and start to add specials too. We will continue to support the local beer scene with 10-12 locally brewed beers on tap.
Sue: Our lower parking lot will be finished, which will open up more spaces.
Have a question for Patrick or Sue? Visit O’Reilly’s Cure; I’m sure you’ll get whatever you need.
O’Reilly’s Cure Restaurant & Bar is located at Bessey Square, 264 U.S. Route 1 across from Scarborough Town Hall. https://www.facebook.com/OReillysCure/