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May 27, 2021

Family rallies to keep beer and schnitzel flowing at East Side Restaurant

Photo | East Side Restaurant Barbara and Nick Augustino.

Sis is in the kitchen. Mom comes in to host. Dad handles takeout orders, greets and seats patrons and does everything else, as needed.

The Augustino family is all hands on deck to keep New Britain’s landmark East Side Restaurant running as the dining industry struggles with staffing and customer confidence.

“We’re running to the bone with staff,” said Nick Augustino, owner of the German-themed restaurant. He and his family took over the restaurant in 1999 from the Bloethe family, who had run it for 40 years. 

Started by the Walter family 70 years ago, East Side is once again a mom-and-pop shop due to the post-pandemic hiring squeeze reported by many restaurants. “It’s pretty tough right now getting staff,” Augustino said. “We used to have people knocking down the doors wanting to go to work.”

With business only about 40% of what it was before COVID-19 hit, Augustino said he decided to cut back the restaurant’s menu and reduce prices to lure back patrons. A full schnitzel dinner with sides costs only $13, a below-break-even price he hopes will earn him goodwill from customers. Servers will also keep wearing masks for the time being to reassure diners. 

“You’ve got to make changes to the times,” Augustino said. “You’ve got to really look at your business... this pandemic will make restaurants make some changes.”

Meanwhile, across town, Augustino’s newer restaurant on New Britain’s west side is thriving due to its suitability to takeout dining. 

The Clam Box opened at 586 W. Main in 2019 and has seen steady growth in business since it reopened after the lockdown, Augustino said. Casual seafood concepts are increasingly popular with customers and offer restaurateurs a better return due to stable prices for staple fish and shellfish, Augustino said. 

Things have been going so well that Augustino is considering opening more Clam Boxes, perhaps in Southington or farther south, he said. 

Augustino said he also has high hopes for business to boom once again at East Side as the pandemic fades into memory. Drawn by its signature “Ticki-tocky” billboards, customers are sure to return for East Side’s weekend Oktoberfests, birthday celebrations and liters of fresh beer.

“I’m going to come back very big and very strong,” Augustino said. “I’ve got a lot to offer.”

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