Interviews

Weaver Lilley / Owner / FridaySaturdaySunday
Weaver Lilley

22: People talk about the fascinating Philadelphia Restaurant Renaissance of the 1970's. You were a big part of it. How did it happen, and who was involved?

Weaver: It's an interesting question and the subject of a "Radio Times" show that Steve Poses (Frog, Commisary) and I were on a few years ago with Marty Moss-Coane. One of the conclusions that we agreed on was the effect of the Vietnam War on our generation. The fact that so many of us were opposed to the war and at the same time subject to the draft, led us to look at the American life with a critical eye. Determined not to do the same thing my parents did, I became a restaurateur instead of a stock broker. The original staff at FridaySaturdaySunday was grossly over educated. The entire kitchen had college degrees and we once had a dishwasher with a PhD. He just wanted to do something different. Everyone was having a ball reinventing the American restaurant.

22: The word "renaissance" implies that all of a sudden, the restaurant scene came alive. Prior to this period, what was happening in terms of dining out in Philadelphia?

Weaver: One of the reasons for the stunning success of the new restaurants was the grim fine dining scene in Philadelphia at that time. Too many were stuffy and pretentious with bland, or just poor food and expensive. These restaurants were sitting ducks for an attack by the newcomers. I remember on a Saturday night, with horror, seeing a line stretching from our door down the block and around the corner. The dining public was starved for a change, so we were there at the right time.

22: Back in the day, what was really on your mind as it related to opening a restaurant? Was there anything in your background or your thinking to lead you in such a direction?

Weaver: I grew up in a family that ate out at least twice a week and I looked forward to these experiences. Being part of the counter-culture of the 70's led me to believe that the new life-style could be applied to a restaurant and not just fringe coffee houses. Everything at FridaySaturdaySunday was informal, unpretentious and non-threatening. The plateware was mix and match; the music eclectic, and the menu was simply described and inexpensive. The wait staff was friendly, casual and personal, and I might add, very hippie.

22: Someone came up with the name FridaySaturdaySunday and history has proven that it was a good decision. Opening a restaurant can't be easy, and you had a group involved. How did it all come together?

Weaver: As you might know, I had six partners who came together on the lark of opening a restaurant by throwing $2000 into a hat. We took turns running it and had our share of crazy ideas. One of those ideas is the name, Friday Saturday Sunday, which is a misnomer since we are open every night. Originally, our hair brain idea was to open only for the big dining nights and close for the rest of the week. Little did we know that you only make enough money on the big nights to pay for your expenses. If you're going to make any money at all, it will be during the week. After I bought my partners out, I opened every night.

Friday Saturday Sunday has been a good name in-spite of any misunderstanding it causes. It's a good name because it's memorable. Often new restaurants try to create a name that cleverly describes what they do. The name falls into the sea of like names that no one can remember. If you can't remember the name, you can't look it up in the phone book.

22: Most restaurants don't see 35 years, and here you are going stronger than ever. It would seem that every other restaurant from the renaissance days is no longer with us. Is it possible that only FridaySaturdaySunday can be the lone survivor of such a vibrant group of restaurants?

Weaver: Sadly we are the sole survivor. I miss some of the great ones: Les Amis, Frog, Commisary, the Garden, Black Banana, the original La Terrasse, the Knave of Hearts and Judy's. I have fond memories of great meals and much fun. We hope to keep the light alive. However, I think the key to staying alive is the need to reinvent yourself periodically. This keeps the dining experience fresh and energizes your staff. An example of this is our wine list which is not only extensive, but priced at $10 over cost, which is a real bargain.

22: In terms of running a restaurant, which has always been about food, ambiance and service, what's changed in all these years? Is the Philadelphia of 2008 as interesting as the City of the 1970's? And how difficult would it be to open a FridaySaturdaySunday today?

Weaver: I feel the emphasis is now on expensive decor instead of food, ambiance and service. There are several fine new restaurants, but there is a sea of glitzy mediocre spots. Today, it takes tons of cash to open a restaurant, and certainly more knowledge and training, particularly in the business end of running a restaurant.

22: At some point, do you think about the next 35 years, or are you having too much fun to worry about it?

Weaver: I'm pretty much focused on this week. Six-months out is a far as I can see. It's the nature of the business.

FridaySaturdaySunday
261 South 21st Street
2155464232


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