Q&A with Atlanta Breakfast Club’s maitre d’ and GM, Dionte Dillard

Editor’s note: In this new periodic series, we chat with metro Atlanta restaurant workers about their jobs, as well as their thoughts on the local dining scene. Is there a restaurant worker you want to nominate for Restaurant Insider? Do you have feedback about the new series? Send your comments to ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

Dionte Dillard has been at Atlanta Breakfast Club (ABC) since it opened in 2016. He chatted with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about his role as general manager and maître d’ at the popular Southern breakfast-lunch-brunch spot, how he tries to offer top-notch service, and an insider’s trick for snagging a coveted table.

Q: How did you get started in the industry?

A: This is actually the first restaurant I’ve been a part of. I’ve been here from the very beginning. We (parent company Good Food & Co.) started off as an event company. We did private events or private dinners all around, and then the restaurant just kind of fell in our laps, and we’ve just hit the ground running ever since.

Q: Tell us about your job, and why it fits your personality.

A: Basically, I manage the front of the house, make sure the machine is always well tuned. It’s funny, because I’ve never really been a big people person. But, for some reason, when you’re in the restaurant, it kind of changes. The way it works in our space, the maître d’ pretty much touches everybody in the building, just having conversations all day, whether it’s with the staff, the guests. Over the last six years, I probably looked over 2 million people in the eye.

Q: ABC is located in downtown Atlanta. You probably relied on some tourist traffic and even business workers, a lot of whom are still working remotely. Is your clientele the same as before the pandemic?

A: We’re actually busier than we were before. It’s hard to believe. But, I think when it shut down travel, (stopping) so many people from outside of Georgia from coming into the city, it let the locals get a chance to really enjoy ABC.

Q: For people who haven’t visited before, what are the top reasons to check it out?

A: It’s just the whole experience. We really pride ourselves on our service. A lot of people say we have the best service in the city. Of course, our food is really good. Whether it’s your first time or your 20th time, you still get the same experience.

Q: What is a typical day like for you?

A: I get here around 8 o’clock. I like to speak to everybody in the building — everybody on the floor: the servers, bussers, hosts. I walk the line and say, “What’s up?” to everybody in the kitchen. Then, I’ll start speaking to guests and make sure everything’s good. It’s pretty much what I’m doing the whole day.

If it was Friday through Monday, we probably average almost a four-and-a half-hour wait. That wait starts about 7:30, 8 o’clock in the morning. It lasts until we decide to cut it off. We close at 3 p.m. ... Typically, guests are out of the restaurant (by) around 4 p.m.

Q: If you’re getting those kinds of lines, are you taking reservations, or is it first-come, first-served?

A: We don’t reserve tables. We work off a system on Yelp called Nowait (rebranded as Yelp Waitlist). If you’re at home, you can roll over in the morning, go to Yelp and just add your name to our waitlist. When you hit the link, you kind of pay attention to your place in line. Once you get toward the top, just head over here. A lot of people don’t know that. A lot of people will walk inside, add themselves to the list, then stand outside for five hours.

Q: Being that you work at a daytime place, how do you spend your evenings?

A: It’s tough, because I speak to so many people. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to just go straight to another public place. I need a second to kind of decompress. On the weekends, it’s hard for me to go out to eat. I can’t lie. I expect someone to give me the same amount of effort that I’ve been giving people all day. If I don’t get that … I’ll probably just go to a bar or something.

Q: What’s your overall feeling about the Atlanta restaurant scene?

A: It has its good and its bad points. We put up a lot of restaurants here, but I think we’re still trying to get the service right. Service isn’t very consistent in Atlanta. There’s a lot of good food here. You can always find something to eat.

Atlanta Breakfast Club. 249 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd., Atlanta; 470-428-3825, atlantabreakfastclub.com.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. To watch a video of the Q&A with Dionte Dillard, visit ajc.com/things-to-do/atlanta-restaurant-blog.

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