CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — There’s a new eatery in Cleveland Heights promising a scary good time for its customers.
The Haunted House Restaurant will have its grand opening on Jul. 20.
It's a collaboration between Ryan Gullatt, and his partners Andre Scott, Jeremiah Burks, and Christopher Thomas.
Scott said he, Burks, and Thomas were looking to get into the restaurant industry. They purchased the old Melt Bar and Grilled on Cedar Road and South Taylor Road earlier this year and Scott reached out to Gullatt for ideas about a concept.
“In 15 minutes he had a whole concept of the haunted house restaurant, I mean from top to bottom,” Scott said.
Gullatt has been a fan of the horror film genre from a young age, so he took inspiration from some of the classics.
“I love horror movies, like my parents would always take me to see Freddy Krueger—'Nightmare on Elm Street', 'Child's Play',” Gullatt said. “It would be so cool if there was a restaurant, based off of horror movie characters, paying homage to horror movies and thrillers.”
Gullatt also said he was inspired after eating at SuperChef’s, a restaurant near Columbus owned by Darnell “SuperChef” Ferguson. Ferguson is a regular on food competitions shows on Food Network.
“He calls himself the SuperChef because he's an amazing chef, but he took the super and he has superheroes throughout his restaurant, and his menu is based off of superhero characters,” Gullatt said.
The horror movie influences Gallett enjoys are plastered everywhere throughout the restaurant. The foyer is designed like a movie theater, with the box office acting as the hostess stand.
“When you come in, you smell hot buttered popcorn,” Gullatt said. “Because initially your senses—if you smell hot buttered popcorn you think about the movies, so as soon as you walk in and you smell the popcorn, you see the marquee up in the ticket booth, you get it. That's what it's about.”
The gourmet menu features dishes named after horror flick characters, and an all-day breakfast component.
“The biggest thing is the brinner. Brinner is breakfast all day, breakfast for dinner. That is one thing that a lot of people love. We have, like, the Jigsaw, we have the Shaggy, so it's like we have normal items but he puts a twist on it,” Gullatt said. “Our appetizers are amazing. A lot of people like our Scooby Snacks—that's the nachos. The Critters, by the way I named them Critters because Critters was actually called the cheesiest movie of all time, and that's our mozzarella sticks.”
There are also spooky surprises, including a Purge birthday celebration when the siren heard in the film plays throughout the restaurant.
“Then, it transfers over to Stevie Wonder's 'Happy Birthday' so everybody's singing happy birthday, so then it becomes a great element. They love that,” Gullatt said.
Despite the scary theme, Gullatt said the Haunted House is friendly for the whole family and the entire community.
“We want kids of all ages, people of all ages to come in and have fun,” Gullatt said. “It’s bigger than us, you know what I’m saying, it doesn't matter the ethnicity. It's because we all go to see scary movies and that brings us together.”
Despite nationwide staffing shortages, hiring is not a problem for the Haunted House
Last week, the Haunted House Restaurant hosted soft openings for family, friends, and guests who were able to snag a reservation.
“Thursday, it looked like a grand opening. I mean, it was crazy,” Scott said.
Scott said many people questioned their timing for opening the restaurant since many restaurants are still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think the timing actually was perfect. Yeah, I think we're gonna benefit from the timing,” Scott said.
Even though restaurants all over the country are dealing with staffing shortages right now, Scott they’re experiencing the complete opposite.
“We’ve been overwhelmed with staff,” Scott said. “We had about 118 people come for our first open interviews.”
Ohio Restaurant Association president and CEO John Barker said that’s not the case for the bulk of the industry.
“We're getting some trickle back, people coming back to apply and showing interest in coming back to work,” Barker said. “We’re hopeful, but we still have a long way to go.”
Barker said the end of the extra $300 in federal unemployment benefits in Ohio plays a role in people looking for work, but more things are keeping people away like concerns about child care and transportation issues.
So how are some businesses like the Haunted House attracting workers?
“I don't think there's any luck involved. I think new concepts are always going to be attractive to some people,” Barker said. “I think people that have something that's differentiated are going to be in a better position as well. So if you're the four-star rated steakhouse in one of our neighborhoods, you probably get some additional people who are willing to go work there.”
Barker said how workers are treated plays a role too.
“You have a really good operation, treat your people well, you have good culture, you pay competitively, you might have some benefits, it's the whole package. And you really take care of your folks,” Barker said.
That’s something Scott agrees with.
“It's something new, something that we want to create a fun atmosphere here,” Scott said.
Plus, he promises his employees a chance for something more than just a job.
“We want to create careers, not just a job where you punch in and out, we want to create careers here, we're looking to expand in other states,” Scott said.
Even though the Haunted House Restaurant is doing well attracting workers, the owners are always looking for more talent. The restaurant has open interviews every Tuesday and Thursday from 1 to 3 p.m. They’re looking for talented people for every position including hosts, servers, bartenders, line cooks, and more.
To learn more about the Haunted House Restaurant and make a reservation, click here.
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