Lennie’s Restaurant left its 10th Street home this summer for a new one on Kirkwood Avenue, near Sample Gates, a location which allows for greater tourism, more community involvement and space for local artists to express their creativity.
The Bloomington staple has been around for 30 years. General manager Matt Houghton said he values the lively environment Lennie’s has to offer and is excited to be a part of Lennie’s future in the community.
“It was time to find a new home,” Houghton said.
Lennie’s attracts many hungry customers from locals to faculty of Indiana University to parents visiting their students.
Director of Operations Mike Fox said the location on Kirkwood Avenue was a perfect fit because the space was owned by another restaurant, The Roost, before Lennie’s moved in.
The new location is also increasingly raking in customers due to its new proximity to Sample Gates. Fox said IU’s Parents’ Weekend in September were the two highest sales days ever for the restaurant.
Fox said another advantage of Lennie’s new location is greater capacity and new accommodations. The additional space not only includes patio seating and a wood burning oven but also has a space upstairs for local artists to decorate.
This atmosphere also extends to their staff. Former employee Randall Shapiro said his co-workers at Lennie’s were like a family, and Lennie’s management both inspired and motivated him.
“Lennie’s has an unforgettable quirkiness mixed with a warm homestyle environment,” Shapiro said.
Houghton said he is greatly appreciative of the staff’s positive attitudes and its flexibility to make this a smooth transition for the local business.
Fox said since the move, Lennie’s has hired an additional 15-20 new employees. As the general manager for Lennie’s, Houghton said training new staff members has been a challenge since they have had to reinvent their training methods at the new location.
Houghton said the guest experience has not changed, but there have been differences in navigating the transition from the production side of the business. Remembering new table numbers, moving around the restaurant efficiently and multitasking are all skills Houghton mentions every staff member is slowly getting more comfortable with each passing day.
The change in location also brought slight changes to the menu. Fox said the restaurant decided to take a couple dishes off the menu in order to focus on the higher capacity.
When every second counts in getting the food from the kitchen to the plate, Fox said streamlining the menu now and expanding it later, based on customer preference, was the best decision.
Despite the change in locations, Houghton said Lennie’s is still mainly visited by Bloomington locals. Fox said there was a lot of press notifying their customers of this change before the move, and the majority of them have embraced this transition across town.
From the thin crust pizzas to the cold beers, Lennie’s staff say they hope to continue to be a prominent part of the community of Bloomington, striving to make both staff and customers feel at home.