It’s no secret that the restaurant industry has been one of the hardest-hit during the pandemic, with a recent survey concluding that nearly two-thirds of New York restaurants might have to close by year’s end. Despite the uncertainty, restaurateurs Kaytrin Della Salla and Devin Ziemann, owners of popular Albany eateries The Cuckoo’s Nest and Crave, are expanding. The duo are on schedule to open their new modern Southern-style restaurant, The Nest, in Schenectady in mid-October.
The Nest, originally slated to open in March but delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak, will open its doors in The Foster Building at 512 State Street in Schenectady, a two-story space complete with an outdoor patio, perfect for distanced dining. “Devin is always looking at empty spaces and what he would put in there,” says Della Salla. “He’s always dreaming ahead for the future, and he found this location, and we felt like we couldn’t pass it up. We weren’t looking to open a new location anytime soon, but this space was just too good to pass up so we jumped on it.” Even under COVID-19 restrictions, the restaurant will be able to seat 100 guests (normally, it would seat 200.) In terms of fare, The Nest will offer a modern twist on the Southern favorites offered at Albany’s Cuckoo’s Nest. “We found the market for Southern cuisine to be so successful in Albany, and we had so many people asking us to move closer to them in the Clifton Park, Saratoga, Schenectady area, so it just seemed to make sense to stick with what we had already mastered in Albany rather than try to come up with another concept that would be mimicking what’s already out there.”
Della Salla and Ziemann have had to rework aspects of the restaurant’s original business plan due to the pandemic, including adjusting prices to lean more “casual” than the original menu’s $25-$30 entrees. “Our original model for the new restaurant was a little bit more upscale,” says Della Salla, “but we found that we needed to revisit that and adjust as people are looking for something more approachable when it comes to the price point—maybe grab-and-go food. We’ve shifted what our original goals were for the menu to be more in line with what our Albany location is offering.” The Nest has also hired employees based on specific customer needs, for example, hiring someone to exclusively handle phone calls and takeout orders. “We’re ready for anything ,” says Della Salla. “If things stay positive and move forward, we’re ready for that. If we have to step back and shift back down, we’ll deal with that. But we’re so, so excited to move forward.”