When you dine at Epic Steak or Waterbar, one of the first people you’re likely to meet is Pete Sittnick. Clearly among the hardest working people in the SF restaurant industry, Pete faced the greatest challenge of his career with the coronavirus pandemic. Along with acclaimed chef Parke Ulrich, Pete had to make some very difficult decisions, at one point laying off their entire staff. Yet, as the City returns to a semblance of normalcy, they’re starting to bring back many of their longtime employees. But for Pete Sittnick, Executive Chef Parke and others, there is so much work still to be done. As managing partner of two of SF’s most scenic restaurants, Pete took time away from an incredibly busy schedule to answer a few questions.
Epic Steak Waterbar
How are Epic Steak & Waterbar doing operating at 50 percent capacity?
Both restaurants are faring reasonably well at 50 percent indoor capacity and socially distanced outdoor tables. The revenue levels have come up over 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Having both indoor and outdoor seating availability gives us much more ability to accommodate guest preferences. We have seen more acceptance of sitting inside now that vaccinations have increased. We do still see a good percentage of guests who absolutely must sit outside and that they do not want inside. Later in the evening, more and more guests want to sit inside for an incredible dining experience with views of the Bay Bridge. That’s due to the weather and the temperature being cooler.
Can you describe the current seating arrangements?
Right now, we have all of our tables, both inside and outside, distanced by 6 feet from each other. We were able to add in some additional tables outside in the public walkway areas alongside and in front of the restaurants through the Shared Spaces program from the Port and the City of San Francisco. These tables really help out with the demand for outdoor seating which most people regard as “safer”. We have utilized some of the private dining spaces, especially the terraces, for a la carte seating because we can’t use them for private events right now – Pete Sittnick
Do you have a favorite entree at Epic Steak & Waterbar?
My favorite entrée at EPIC is steak. I prefer the New York steak personally, but the public definitely prefers the filet as it is the number one seller. There is a great deal at EPIC that you can add on to any steak for $20 and get a salad, a side dish and a dessert all included! At Waterbar, fresh fish is always the way to go and I really enjoy the local Pacific Ocean fish like halibut and petrale sole.
How about a favorite dessert?
My favorite dessert at Waterbar is the Sticky Toffee Pudding. It is the dessert that Pastry Chef Erica Land battled Bobby Flay with on his TV show. At EPIC, I love the soft serve ice cream sundae. We just switched to soft serve about a month ago and it is so tasty and so easy to eat.
How are take-out orders & food deliveries doing?
Both restaurants started doing takeout orders when we opened from the first shutdown in June 2020. Neither restaurant is overly successful with this program. That’s because the food is so much better in the restaurant where you can enjoy the ambiance as well. We will continue to make it available as there are guests in the neighborhood who like to pick it up to take home.
Do you have any special memories from 2020?
2020 was a very difficult and challenging year for the restaurants. We had to go through TWO full shutdowns which meant that we closed completely and laid off all of the employees. My favorite memories are that we created an Employee Fund via gift certificate sales. We raised almost $50,000 and half of that went right to the employees. This really helped them out in a time when they were not working. I also enjoyed being able to wear more casual clothes, especially Hawaiian shirts, when we were just doing outdoor dining. This just made the difficulty of the situation a little more comfortable.
Are you planning anything special this Year for Epic Steak & Waterbar?
The rest of 2021 will be dedicated to coming back from the economic disaster of 2020. We are taking everything in stride and not getting overly frustrated by the rules and restrictions. I am pleasantly surprised and optimistic with the outcome of the public demand to return to restaurants. I’m particularly looking forward to the return of normal bar and lounge operations. That’s because this area is one that was always popular at Waterbar and EPIC, and it is the place where the local neighbors like to hang out. I also think that this year’s holiday parties will be great because everyone had to miss doing it last year.
What are your expectations for 2022?
My expectations for 2022 are that the public will return at close to pre-pandemic levels. I think that both leisure and business travel will continue to improve. However, it will take time and will go slowly. I am looking forward to being able to not have to wear a mask, create big smiles for our guests and give and receive hugs. The human element is so important to restaurants and I am really excited to be able to share in that energy.
About The Author:
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS Local from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including CBS New York, CBS Los Angeles and CBS Chicago
During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a digital audience reach of 489 million and more than 5.5 million monthly visitors. His other stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS Radio, Engadget and Radio.com. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University and lifelong resident of Santa Cruz County, California.