BRANDON — After closing last year with the intent to sell, the longtime owners of Cattails say they’re set to reopen any day now.
“We owned it since 2004, so it’s been 15 or 16 years. We closed it down in May 2019,” said Lance Chicoine, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Stephanie Kellogg.
“Lance had always been involved in restaurants, pretty much since he was 15, he worked at the Rutland Country Club, started out as a dishwasher,” said Kellogg at the restaurant on Monday. “He was never a formal chef as far as the education portion goes. We went to South Carolina for a little while where he cooked down there, he was then offered the head chef position at the Rutland Country Club, so we came back to Vermont.”
It took about a year for the couple to secure the Cattails restaurant.
“It was our only restaurant until five or six years ago when we took over Paddlers. It was called Waterhouse’s Tavern at the time,” Kellogg said, referring to a restaurant the couple leases in Salisbury, on Lake Dunmore. “This summer we took over the golf course restaurant at Middlebury College, we changed the name. It’s called Tavern on the Tee.”
Kellogg said that it’s challenging enough to manage one restaurant, much less three, and the decision to close Cattails in May was a tough one, but it needed to happen for them to reassess how they did business.
“The formula that made Cattails successful when we first opened is not a viable business model anymore,” said Kellogg.
Perhaps the biggest change return diners will notice when the place opens again is the menu.
“We had a huge menu,” said Kellogg. “we tried to make everyone as happy as possible by offering everything from steak to pasta to burgers to wings. It was five to six pages long, there were a lot of options. We made 99% of everything in-house, most of our dressings were made in-house, that type of thing.”
The place will still offer its own wing sauces, said Chicoine, who not only enjoys making them, but hasn’t found another product that compares to them. But the new menu will focus on the basics and on what sells.
“We took what was the highest percentage sold and put it on the new menu, in the hopes of getting them back in here, understanding we have a good product,” said Chicoine. “We went for a pub-style, where it’s appetizers, wings, burgers, sandwiches and some mac n’ cheese. It’s comfort-food, it’s what sold the most in the last five to eight years, over 80% of our daily sales were these products. We’ve added a few other things just to kind of uplift the menu, and hopefully it’s received well.”
Hours will be a little tighter as well, the couple said. When Cattails opens anew, it’ll be Tuesday through Saturday, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. It had been open seven days per week with breakfast served Sundays, but most people do their dining at Cattails at night, and the breakfast demand was too hit-or-miss to maintain.
Chicoine said the restaurant will open as soon as a certain vendor is ready. He and Kellogg are interviewing for staff this week. Many are new, but some past employees have expressed an interest in coming back. Kellogg said the restaurant will use the latest in server technology, meaning waitstaff can take orders faster, more accurately, and in a more cost-effective way than in the past.