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How Congress and Second's David Bull Survives SXSW

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Photo: Congress/Official

David Bull's twin set of restaurants, casual Second Bar + Kitchen and upscale Congress, lie in the midst of the SXSW madness. Bull's goal at the festival is to make sure there are "no surprises." Prep starts a month in advance, and the restaurant group sits down with every employee to make sure they're "mentally and physically ready" for the challenge ahead.

Check out Bull's full battle plan below, plus take a look at the all-day menu Second Bar + Kitchen runs especially for SXSW.

Congress and Second Bar and Kitchen are in the midst of the SXSW madness on Congress Avenue. What's the chance of getting a table there during the festival?

We can do a thousand people a day for five to six days straight. Prime time dining is a 2-3 hour wait. I would definitely come early and come late, though during SXSW prime time is pretty late.

How you prepare Second Bar + Kitchen for the onslaught?

Menu development is huge. It's our 4th SXSW at this location. Our first year, we tried to change over menus from lunch to dinner, and that proved too difficult. Our restaurant had 250 people in at four or five, so changing over the kitchen was impossible.

Now, we run an all day menu starting at eleven written specially for SXSW. It features more egg dishes, and more hangover remedies. We know the clientele is waking up late and having breakfast.

We also concentrate a lot on staff. In February we have what we call "one-on-ones." We talk to everyone to fix any issues pending prior to SXSW. We make sure every employee is mentally and physically ready to accomplish what needs to be done. We've definitely lost a few employees during the festival. We hire on extra folks so we're prepared.

We also make sure we have all the tools we need: spatulas, sheet pans, etc. It's all about hardcore anticipation of what could happen.

Is the process different for Congress?

The menu doesn't change, but we're sensitive to the Southby crowd. We see the executive side, the producer side of the conference, and we make sure we have anything they might want to order to indulge themselves. The wines are stocked.

Congress is a deal-making destination. We get fun people. Nas and Sprite wanted to buy it out a few years ago, so that's possible again.

It's all about making sure there are no surprises. We look forward to the challenge every year.


SXSW Dessert 2014 by meghan@eater

· All David Bull Coverage [EATX]

Second Bar + Kitchen

200 Congress Avenue, , TX 78701 (512) 827-2750 Visit Website