OCEAN CITY- Every family restaurant promises great service, friendly staff, and an atmosphere that evokes feelings of familial and close-knit relationships but few restaurants can actually deliver all of those attributes. Higgins Crab House is one restaurant that can deliver all of that plus some.
Higgins Crab Houses can be found at the north location on 132nd Street or at the south location on 31st Street. Both locations are owned and operated by the Higgins family, and both provide the same menu and family-style restaurant atmosphere. Mike Nader, manager of Higgins North, sat down with the Dispatch to explain what has made Higgins a successful family run business for over thirty years.
Nader has been a part of Higgins for over nine years and has come to call Higgins North home and his fellow employees family. According to Nader, he likes what working in a restaurant has to offer and enjoys that it keeps you busy.
“My favorite weekend is probably the hot rod weekend, but the restaurants favorite weekend is definitely Fourth of July,” he said.
Nader is used to running a restaurant during busy holiday weekends like Fourth of July and also during the busy summer months. With a wide variety on the menu and the promise of good crabs it’s no wonder he stays so busy. The menu ranges from steak to seafood to ribs to soups to salads, there is also a kids menu. Nader considers the crabs to be the most popular item.
“When we have really big crabs, they’re pretty much reserved before they are on the premises,” Nader said as he explained how popular the crabs are.
Higgins menu and abundance of crabs is supported by the size of the restaurant. With inside and outside seating both locations seat 400 people. This makes for a busy environment and certainly calls for a large and efficient staff. There are currently 200 employees and Nader says there will be 300 by the Fourth of July. Having a large amount of employees may be necessary for the success of the restaurant, but it can certainly cause headaches for a manager.
“You can imagine making a schedule for 40 waitresses can be challenging” Nader said. He also finds training and maintaining a staff to be challenging, particularly “getting the staff ready by Memorial Day and then re-staffing after Labor Day.” Nader said it could be difficult when most of the staff leaves at the end of the summer. Maintaining the same quality through October is a main goal after the summer months.
Despite the challenges of managing a large staff Nader takes pride in the employees and in the close, family-like environment that they create. Owner Bob Higgins agreed and aptly said, “Our success is in our people”. With a friendly smile and his arm draped over Nader’s shoulder Higgins said the success of the restaurant is attributed to having trustworthy employees that know how to get the job done. They both agreed it’s what keeps the restaurant running smoothly.
Nader also said many of the employees come back year after year, creating a feeling of solidarity. “Every manager has been here for at least five years,” he said. “And not only do the managers stay, but we have 20 waitresses coming back this year.” Nader explained that the employees really enjoy working there and it’s what brings them back each year. “We feel we do it right here,” he said. He went on to say that although some don’t return it still stays “in-house”. “The girls who don’t come back often get friends to fill their spots.” Nader said they had even talked about making a “Higgins University” T-shirt this year to reflect the tradition.
The employees aren’t the only ones provided with the security of a family atmosphere, the customers are as well. “It’s the main thing we do up here,” Nader said of the family restaurant style. According to Nader it’s the family atmosphere that keeps customers coming back year after year.
As for this year, Nader sees a busy summer ahead. Business was booming for Higgins North this past Memorial Day, giving everyone a good preview of the summer. “So far the weather is cooperating,” he said, hoping it’ll stay that way throughout the busy season.
According to Nader, Higgins North stays steady until they close their doors in October. Higgins South stays open a little longer until December. Nader said the south location gets a little busier than the north location mainly because it is closer to the downtown area.
“Downtown is a little busier and it has steadier year round business,” he said. Both locations open at 2:30 and close when business starts to slow down for the evening.
As for the north location the environment is certainly conducive to eating crabs. The décor and brown paper covered tables’ leave you ready to grab a mallet and knife and break open some steaming hot crabs. The colorful outside seating bodes well for summer and the large inside bar provides a good option for those seeking a cool drink or a light meal. Overall the ample amount of seating and friendly atmosphere comes together to reflect the goals that the Higgins family has been maintaining for the past thirty years.