Popular banh mi restaurant Sandwich Hag did something unusual for the industry: It reduced its hours, and not because business was slow.
As of early June, The Cedars spot no longer serves dinner on weekdays. They’re only open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. They do, however, have dinner service Saturday and Sunday.
Sandwich Hag celebrated its two-year anniversary earlier this month, and after two years, the workload was taking a major toll on owner and executive chef Reyna Duong, her family and her team.
“When you’re building out a restaurant, you’re going nonstop even before you open,” Duong says.
Duong made this change in an attempt to achieve work-life balance.
“We have a small team. Small, but mighty. My brother Sang works right alongside me. He’s a 39-year-old man with Down syndrome, and he’s the hardest worker I have.”
Duong found herself at the restaurant from early in the morning until late at night every day they were open.
“Even when we (closed) on Monday, I was running a lot of errands and doing even more prepping,” Duong says.
She had no down time.
“I had to make a decision for my mental fitness, for my brother,” Duong says. “We’re not going to slow down anytime soon, and if I don’t do this now, then when? Yes, I love what I do. It’s what gets me up; but at what cost?
“How about we just work smarter? I talk about work-life with my team all the time. This will allow for us to spend time with family.”
With this change, her staff members haven't lost hours. She’s actually hiring more people to support the bustling lunch crowd.
And weekday dinners aren’t completely off the table: Duong still caters to private events.
In May, Duong posted on Instagram, alerting customers of the new hours and explaining why.
“It was scary because I didn’t want to disappoint my customers,” Duong says. “Because we have a really loyal customer base.”
Duong was overwhelmed with the positive response she received. She had customers who read the news she posted at the store and asked to speak to her, so they could shake her hand and provide encouragement.
She was also pleased with the response from others in the industry.
“I have a lot of friends who own businesses, and they DMed and messaged me and said, ‘This is inspirational,’” she says.
With this change, Duong hopes to address both work-life balance and mental health in the restaurant world.
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“Closing during some of my busiest hours is not industry norm,” she says. “But at what cost? Our industry is known for, ‘Hey, if you’re not working 16 hours, you’re not working.’ That’s not healthy.
“I’m trying really hard to remove the stigma of mental health. We talk about what we eat all the time, we show that we go to the gym all the time. And if mind, body and soul is part of who we are, then why can’t we talk about our mind, which controls everything?”
After nearly two months of the new schedule, things are going better than she expected.
“It’s been going well. Lunches have been even more busy,” Duong says. “But most importantly, we’re feeling more rested. The whole team is.”