By the looks of it at lunchtime, and most of the time during dinner, and most other times of day, Alpha Gyro Grill needs to expand.
It’s been a welcome problem for the hometown Greek restaurant at the corner of Jesse Jewell and EE Butler Parkways almost immediately after opening in 2018.
That expansion is now coming, although won’t add many more seats.
“Most of the business is going to catering and pick-up-and-go,” said Christos Nicolaou, co-owner at the restaurant with his wife Sally Griffin and friend George Giannoulas. “I care about the seating, but catering is more than that.”
Again, it’s a problem they’re thankful for, but a problem that needed a solution.
“Business has been a blessing,” Nicolaou said. “It's been good, but every two days I need supplies. I run out of supplies, so I need some place for storage.”
Right now, they’re left scrambling to Kroger or Restaurant Depot a few times each week because they simply don’t have the space to store ingredients and disposable items. The space inside Alpha can’t keep up with its catering demands — the secret sauce that keeps the doors open for Gainesville restaurants — on top of its dine-in customers.
Over the past few months, they’ve been building out a space next door that will be the new dining room. If you’ve eaten there, you’ve likely seen some of the work going on.
Part of that wall with the design inspired by Pyrgi, a town in Chios, Greece, that has become a signature at Alpha will be knocked out to lead to the new space.
But don’t worry, Nicolaou, Griffin and their two sons have been hard at work recreating the paint job it there, too.
“This wall was done by us because it’s a stencil,” Nicolaou said. “It is a design in only one Greek village … All the houses are like that. And we use that as sort of a symbol for us. It's Greek. It doesn't look Greek, but it is Greek.”
There will be new bench seating in the new space, giving the option of pushing tables together for larger groups. Altogether, there will be about 14 more seats in the new space than there are in the current dining room.
That current dining room, though, will be turned into a waiting area with one or two tables and maybe even a couple tall tables against the windows to add some additional seating.
The biggest change — and most needed — will be the kitchen expansion.
“Sixty percent of the business is in catering,” Nicolaou said. “I care about the seating because these are the people who spread the word, but it's the catering that brings a lot of necessity to have storage and prep, which I don't have.”
He said he only has a small amount of extra freezer space to store a few additional supplies, but he goes through that in a couple days. There’s not enough space to store dry goods and there’s definitely not enough counter space, either.
“We are completely inefficient in some of the things we do,” Nicolau said. “We do not even have space to put little kitchen machines that will make the work more efficient … We don't even have a can opener we can put on the counter. It has to be taken from underneath.”
The kitchen will be expanded, taking up all of the area where orders are currently placed. The counter will be flipped to face the new waiting area and the desert cases will be moved that way, too. Much of the new refrigeration and storage will be added behind the counter.
Nicolaou said it will be a slow transition, because he doesn’t want to have to close to make all the changes at once, but it’s a change that is much needed.
“In the kitchen, everybody steps on everybody else,” he said.
Even with the struggles, he said they’re having more success than they ever imagined, so he’s happy that Alpha is expanding and gearing up for the future.
“(Business) is picking up all the time,” Nicolaou said. “I didn't expect it to be that large, but the quality of our food is the thing that has an impact.”