When discussing late-night dining, it’s tough to keep the only diner that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year in Blacksburg out of the conversation. Waffle House accommodates the nighttime breakfast cravings of Tech students with its entire menu always available for order, and an atmosphere that entices the taste buds at any time.
Friday nights and Saturday mornings provide the highest volume of customer traffic for Waffle House, and with that, any sort of inebriated population inevitably makes matters interesting for the staff.
Ira Maxey, a server at Waffle House, described the late-night crowd.
“You always have the handful of tables that are drunk off their tooshies,” said Maxey. “We’ve had several fights here on third shift. We used to have one of our employees pretty much act as a bouncer for the restaurant.”
But the night-dwelling crowd has plenty of perks to accompany its complications.
“Late-night shifts are some of the best… most people who come in are familiar with all the servers and cooks,” said Maxey. “We have their orders memorized, and already have their food started as soon as they walk in.”
As in the entire restaurant business, good service comes down to pleasing the customer, regardless of his or her blood alcohol content. Luckily, Waffle House has mastered the art of wooing the drunken dollar.
“We have our third-shift staff that’s used to drunken customers,” Maxey said. “They’ll have conversations with them, swap stories with them, and keep them satisfied.”
Erik Ferri, also a server and a senior agricultural economics major at Tech, has worked at Waffle House for just over a week and shared his first impression of the Blacksburg diner.
“You can’t please everybody. Especially during the morning shifts, people come in tired and grumpy and they want everything to be perfect,” said Ferri. “With every customer you have a moment of truth where they decide whether they’re satisfied or dissatisfied, and if they’re drunk it can go one way or the other really harshly”.
D. P. Dough
Sitting near the intersection of North Main Street and College Avenue is D.P. Dough, an eatery that serves calzones as late as 3 a.m.
“The busiest nights are always going be Friday, Saturday,” said Tim Seeman, co-owner and manager of Blacksburg’s D.P. Dough. "Then it kind of varies between Tuesdays and Thursdays as the next busiest nights, because on Tuesday there’s 'TOTS Tuesdays' and other bar nights.”
D.P. Dough opens at 11 a.m. every day, closing at 2 a.m. from Sunday to Wednesday and 3 a.m. from Thursday to Saturday.
On Fridays and Saturdays, D.P. Dough’s Fast Lane is open from midnight to 3 a.m., meaning that customers can pick from D.P. Dough’s five most popular calzones and receive their orders quickly, as they are made every 15 minutes.
“That’s specifically to keep everyone moving, to provide something specific as soon as possible,” Seeman said.
Late-night customers range from the insomniac students cramming for exams to inebriated partygoers.
“Toward the end of the semester, we have a lot more people coming in,” Seeman said. “We provide really good Wi-Fi so people caught on to that, and so we have more study groups coming in. Throughout the semester we have more of the downtown people late at night from the bars.”
Most of their late-night visitors may be chanting, “Let’s go hokies!” with a little more enthusiasm and spontaneity than they normally would sober, but every once in awhile people get a little too rowdy.
“We get a few scraps but usually it’s just the typical drunk people,” Seeman said. “We just kind of let them do their own thing, and if it ever gets out of hand we let the managers step in.”
Nights are not the only popular times for D.P. Dough, however. In such a strong football community, some of the busiest days have been game days.
“We get a lot of typical drunken college students, especially the game days are our busiest days,” Seeman said.