Those who have spent quality time on the Waccamaw Neck – that famous stretch of surf, sand, marsh, and rivers extending from Winyah Bay north to Murrells Inlet and Garden City – are probably familiar with long-time local, Anne Hardee. Co-Owner and COO of two of the region’s most lauded restaurants, her reputation as a restaurateur is rock solid.
Anne and her biz partner, Chef Adam Kirby, opened Bistro 217 in 2004. The new eatery was an immediate sensation. Some years later, they jumped at the chance to purchase another restaurant, formerly known as Island Deli. (Anne was one of the original owners there too!) The dynamic duo quickly set about transforming that Pawleys Island landmark into another called Rustic Table.
Managing two dynamic restaurants is no small feat, but Anne is up to the task. She is shrewd in business but very approachable, too. Her love of all things culinary has its roots in an Italian family where delicious food was appreciated. Later in life, she earned her professional chops the best way … in the restaurant business since her college years.
“I love my job,” she says. “There are a lot of moving pieces, but there’s a creative vibe and a strong service ethic among our staff that makes me proud. As to my role, I’d just say few people fully appreciate how multi-disciplined you must be to make everything come together seamlessly. Facing that challenge brings me pleasure, helps me grow, and gives me drive.”
To be sure, managing the front of the house is a real plate-spinner. It encompasses customer service, hiring staff, managing cash flow, tracking inventory, designing the dining room, and planning restaurant promotions. “Potential stressors are everywhere, so multi-tasking is crucial,” she explains.
Indeed, she can wrestle the numbers, a whirlwind of staff schedules, and much more, then walk straight into a busy dining room and turn the world on with her smile.
Perhaps that is her greatest gift – an innate passion for making customers feel appreciated (and employees feel valued). That passion makes things happen. She delivers a lot of personal attention and builds real relationships, never seeing any guest as a one-time transaction. And somehow, she makes it look effortless.
Co-owner and mastermind in the kitchen, Chef Adam, has this to say: “I trust Anne completely.” Then he laughs. “She the godmother to my newest child, Eli, after all! … I don’t think there could be a better partner. She is smart, good-looking, and tough as nails. She knows people and keeps them all happy; you have to have that skill in this business!”