Locally owned restaurant oSo Eats announced this week that it will close indefinitely on Saturday.
The restaurant has been a staple in Winston-Salem, offering affordable, family-friendly American food in a casual atmosphere at 299 Jonestown Road for 12 years.
The restaurant was opened in September 2009 by three brothers — Pete, Jimmy and Spiro Strates, the sons of Duke’s Restaurant founder Paul Strates — plus their friend Sammy Gianopoulos. Gianapoulos left to work on other restaurants, including Fratellis Italian Steakhouse in Winston-Salem and Three Bulls Steakhouse in Clemmons. The Strates brothers later took on a new partner, Johnny Faulkner, who had started there as a server.
The owners also run The Sherwood in Sherwood Plaza on Robinhood along with Kosta Janos. The Sherwood remains open.
Also, Duke’s — now owned by the three Strates brothers — remains open, as does TJ’s Deli, owned by Jimmy and Spiro Strates and Maria and Lampros Tsipras.
Pete Strates said in a Facebook post that it pained him and his partners to close oSo.
“However, the stress of trying to balance business, family and everything in between and continue to consistently execute at the standards that we expect of our establishments has reached its tipping point. We can no longer work 80 to 90 hours a week with a continuous tsunami of obstacles to overcome on a daily basis and keep our mental and physical health as well,” Strates wrote.
Strates said in a telephone interview that the staff shortage was at the heart of the problem. And no matter how many more hours he, his brothers and others worked to compensate for the lack of help, it was no longer enough.
“I genuinely take pride in what I do, but these last couple months it hasn’t been up to my standards, and I can’t keep doing that. I’d rather close,” Strates said.
The partners kept oSo up and running throughout the earlier parts of the coronavirus pandemic. During the height of the pandemic last year, they teamed with other restaurateurs to provide free meals to those in need. Altogether, they gave away hundreds of boxed meals that were distributed to Family Services’ Head Start clients.
Though Strates said that the oSo staff “has been burning the candle at both ends,” he held out hope that the restaurant would reopen in time.
“We have decided to regroup, refocus, reenergize and restructure our business in order to hopefully come out of this stronger than ever before. But if we don’t take a step back now, we will never take two steps forward in the future,” he wrote.
Though customers returned to area restaurants in force this spring, this year has proved to be just as challenging to restaurateurs as last year. Despite strong demand, restaurants have had to cope with supply and staff shortages. The latter have led to long hours for many in the industry, and overwork and burnout is becoming a problem for those who remain in the business.
Many restaurants have dealt with the shortage of help by reducing hours. Others, like Oso, have been forced to close for longer periods. Sweet Potatoes, a popular downtown restaurant, recently closed for two days to give staff a break and decided to switch to takeout and patio dining only, closing its dining room indefinitely. The Bojangles at 1423 Lewisville-Clemmons Road, has been completely closed a few weeks as its staff has been diverted to the sister store at 2468 Market Center Drive.
Strates said that oSo staff was overworked to the point that it “had nothing left to give.”
He added: “It kills us to admit that to ourselves, but we feel like this is the right thing to do. Hopefully these next few months will pass and we can all get back to normal once and for all. But until then, please stay safe, enjoy your loved ones and live happily. It has truly been an honor serving you all.”