Pictured above is Ashley Stokes, a server at Legends who is glad the restaurant is open. “I just like to make sure everybody is happy all the time. That’s what I’m here for, just to make people happy. Plus, I feel like Notre Dame appreciates me. I’ve worked a lot of places where I didn’t feel welcome, but Notre Dame makes me feel welcome.”
There is a saying that out of adversity comes opportunity. The theory rings especially true across campus now, as divisions, offices, departments and dining venues have adjusted to operating during a pandemic.
For Legends of Notre Dame Restaurant and Alehouse Pub, part of the University Enterprises and Events (UEE) division, adversity came in waves.
- The restaurant, which is south of Notre Dame Stadium, was closed from mid-March through the end of July when it reopened for carry out and physically distanced dining.
- In mid-August, when in-person classes were paused for two weeks, the dining area was temporarily closed, though carry-out was permitted.
- At the end of August, the Department of Athletics announced home football game attendance would be limited to 20 percent of stadium capacity and seating was reserved for students, faculty and staff. Plus, the University would not permit tailgating. That meant Legends would not see the typical deluge of Game Day patrons.
“It’s definitely not your typical football season, but it’s better than expected given the pandemic,” said Legends Operations Manager Kat Lyvers.
“Better than expected” because of out-of-the-box thinking. During the summer, Lyvers had an idea: Could students use their meal plan flex points to purchase carry-out from Legends? It had never been done before. So she took the idea to Micki Kidder, vice president of UEE.
The decision came in tandem with the “pause,” as Lyvers calls the two weeks in August when the University halted in-person classes (and in-person dining).
“We went from two to three carry-out orders a day to literally 200 to 300 every day,” said Legends Executive Chef Josh Maron. “Talk about a dynamic change. We were literally trying to discover how many to-go bags we needed and how to staff the place. It was a really good problem to have because fortunately we were able to get a lot of business from that.”
“When a server comes out and gives you food and drink, they are always wearing a mask and gloves. They change their gloves everytime they bring you something. They always use fresh glassware and they’ll never refill your glass with a pitcher. They will bring you a fresh beverage.” ~Kat Lyvers, Legends operations manager
Even with the dining space now open, carry-out business remains steadily high thanks to flex points.
Another opportunity blossomed through a “neighbor.”
“We have a big new partnership with the Executive MBA program,” Lyvers said.
The program runs out of Mendoza’s Stayer Center for Executive Education, across the sidewalk from Legends. EMBA students are working professionals from all over the country who come to campus once a month for three-day residencies. Typically, students would enjoy a hot breakfast and lunch in Stayer’s dining area, but this fall the space was converted into a physically distanced classroom.
“I walk by Legends every day from my car to the Stayer Center,” said Mike Brach, the EMBA program manager. “One day I walked by and it dawned on me that they have a large event space and I need a dining area. They need revenue, and can serve healthy hot meals just 30 feet from our building. I turned around and went in and asked if they would work with us and their faces lit up! It took two seconds for them to say yes. It is a great partnership and we look forward to working more with them in the future,” he said.
“Legends is the place to come if you are just beginning to venture out. Indiana has moved to Stage 5, allowing restaurants to operate at full capacity, but we have chosen to run at half capacity, which is about every other table. There is no wait, even on Friday and Saturday nights. We can seat you right away. We also take reservations.” ~Kat Lyvers, Legends operations manager
Lyvers and Maron are grateful for the new business opportunities, as well as for their staff and University leadership.
“Our staff has all been great. They’ve remained flexible and everyone’s had a really good attitude with all the changes,” Maron said.
The two also appreciate the out-of-towners who still come to Legends, even when they can’t attend a game.
“People incorporate Legends into part of their Notre Dame experience. They go to the Grotto, the bookstore, see the stadium (from the outside) and come into Legends,” Maron said. “I think it’s really important that we’re still here doing our thing, providing Notre Dame hospitality when it’s a little harder to experience Notre Dame as you normally would.”