By Charles Morgan III
The restaurant industry provides more jobs in Destin than any other segment of business. Restaurants are labor intensive. They can also be intrusive. They entail all kinds of annoyances. Odors, trash, noise, traffic, and everything associated with the sale of alcohol are often by-products of the trade. But restaurants also are involved in many things outside of the business of selling food.
The restaurant I’m most familiar with is entering its 40th year of business. It’s not much different from other restaurants in its involvement with its community. These are some of the things a restaurant offers, outside of a menu, that can make it a good neighbor.
Harbor Docks has hosted everything from engagement parties and wedding ceremonies to funerals and wakes. We’ve had graduation celebrations, bachelor and bachelorette parties, retirement roasts, going away parties and coming home parties. We’ve provided burials at sea almost every year.
We host political events—fundraisers and campaign kick-offs—for gubernatorial, senatorial, congressional and presidential campaigns. We’ve had every kind of local election party you can have. We’ve had election night watch parties.
We’re pretty much the site for political events for the Democratic Party (one area where we don’t have much competition) and even gatherings for local Republican candidates. We’ve been involved in every type of fundraiser that exists.
We’ve staged dramatic plays, shown full-length films, had dance performances and provided a venue for musicians—from symphony orchestras and jazz ensembles to Delbert McClinton and Leon Russell.
We’ve sponsored every type of sports team you can imagine, from tee-ball teams through all the high school sports. We’ve even fielded our own softball, basketball, flag football, soccer and Frisbee teams. We’ve sponsored individual kids who were cheerleaders, band members, track and field athletes, and basketball, football, soccer and baseball players.
We have always had auctions, fishing, and golf tournaments. Through these events, we’ve raised money for creating running tracks, swimming pools and athletic fields.
We are involved with Take-A-Kid Fishing, Habitat for Humanity, Destin Harvest and American Lunch. And we feed a lot of people at Thanksgiving.
We’ve fed nurses at hospitals, kids at schools, and groups at family reunions. We’ve given out boatloads of gift cards and donations to groups all over the south.
Harbor Docks is not unique. There are restaurants all over this town that fund worthwhile causes and provide help to numerous groups at the drop of a hat.
That is part of a decent restaurant’s DNA.
As an industry, restaurants operate on a very thin profit margin. Not many people consider restaurants “easy” to run. They have to work hard—and smart—and enjoy some luck to operate for long periods. But the restaurants that last generally have outsized effects on their towns.
Next time you visit your favorite spot, take a minute to think about the things that they do outside of the normal definition of business. And think about what our community would be like without business partners who take their role in our town seriously.
There’s a lot more to business—and life—than money. There’s a lot more to restaurants than food and drink.