Statesboro's latest entrant into the restaurant scene has made big splash with a very successful first five days in which more than 800 guests were served.
"We are so pleased and blessed to have the crowds that we have had this first week," said owner Heath Robinson. "It has been steady, and at times crowded, but we have been able to manage it. It has been very exciting to see people really enjoying themselves."
40 East Grill is in the former location of the Blue Moon restaurant on East Main Street. Robinson "gutted" the location, completely renovating the inside of the building.
"I wanted to create a something that I would really like to go to," he said. "We want our customers to feel like they are eating in a Savannah restaurant without having to go to Savannah. They can get that same experience right here in Statesboro."
Downtown Statesboro Development Authority executive director Allen Muldrew said the opening of 40 East in conjunction with the anticipated opening of the South Vine Public House restaurant in the next few weeks could trigger a restaurant "movement" downtown.
"There is so much excitement that has been generated with the opening of 40 East," he said. "It is giving people options, and they like that. We will soon have three fine dining restaurants open downtown, including 119 Chops on West Main which has been here for the last several years. You can see them feeding on one another, and downtown becoming a dining destination."
Muldrew said these restaurants provide residents with an opportunity to give their out-of-town guests a taste of what is produced here locally.
"Whether it is a business meeting or friends visiting, folks like to get a taste of local cuisine, something they may not get where they are from," he said. "By providing a menu that is farm-to-table, what we grow and produce here is showcased. I think that is pretty special."
Robinson said he took a new tact in marketing his latest restaurant.
"When we opened New York City Pizza in the Market District, I did what you might refer to as traditional advertising, and that's fine," he said. "But this time, I relied a little more on social media which allowed us to tell the story of 40 East."
Robinson created a Facebook page which documented the renovation of the building through pictures.
"People could see how far along we were, and what we trying to accomplish," he said. "The number of people that were watching our progress just kept growing. They knew we were local people, using local companies for our renovation. We were also able to communicate that were going to buy all of the food that we could locally. People were able to watch our story unfold."
Robinson said he has been amazed at how powerful the use of Facebook has been.
"There were a dozen people here on Saturday night that were checking in on Facebook, letting others know they were here," he said. "When we first opened, I sent a message to all of our followers that we were open, and within 20 minutes we were full. Amazing."
One of those initial customers was Statesboro resident Dawn Oliver.
"I went there twice last week, once for dinner, and once for lunch," she said. "It was absolutely delicious, and the service was excellent. I think they are going to do very, very well."
Averitt Center for the Arts executive director Tim Chapman echoed Oliver's sentiments.
"You can't help but enjoy yourself here," he said. "You can see how much thought has been given to the furnishings, the menu, and the service. It is just great."
Robinson said he is surprised at the variety of his clientele.
"We are reaching more people than I thought we initially would," he said. "We have had a lot of folks for lunch, for example, that don't work downtown, and many that are retired. That is wonderful."