For the past 38 years, Afternoon Delight has sat on the corner of East Liberty Street and South Fifth Avenue serving homemade specials to the Ann Arbor community. At peak hours, customers wait in a line that trails to the sidewalk outside, regardless of rain or shine.
Its secret? In an interview with The Michigan Daily, owner and manager Tom Hackett said he thought consistency was key to the restaurant’s success.
“If the customers wait in line a half hour, the food has to be exactly the way that they expect it,” he said. “The normal breakfast is very important. It has to be perfect; people are very fussy how they like their eggs. We’ll reject food off the line if it’s not right, and we’ll do it over.”
Hackett was working in restaurant sales equipment when the first Afternoon Delight opened up in Lansing, Michigan. He designed and sold the business all its equipment. Eventually, the restaurant’s success prompted stores in two more locations, in Ann Arbor and in Grand Rapids, to open their doors.
In 1978, Hackett joined the Ann Arbor location and became a partner. After 38 years of working at Afternoon Delight, he says he still loves his job.
“I never get tired of it,” he said. “I enjoy the people and the staff, and the job amazes me. I’ve seen some of the same people come in for the past 38 years, and seen their kids grow up. Now they’re bringing their grandkids.”
Regulars at Afternoon Delight said they return to the restaurant for the friendly staff and great atmosphere.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a whole lot change at all since I started coming here in the mid-80s,” said Ann Arbor resident Debbie Williams, a University of Michigan alum. “It has been the same great food and the same atmosphere and just the friendly staff. I think that’s one thing that makes it so successful.”
Afternoon Delight attracts many of its customers through word of mouth. Williams said she heard about the restaurant from a fellow teammate on the track and field team during her time at the University.
More than 30 years later, a path is seen among the younger generation.
“I heard about this place from my friends,” said LSA junior Clare Kang. “They all say it’s a place you have to go to if you're in Ann Arbor. I’m definitely coming back — I want to try some other things on the menu, like the veggie boule.”
LSA senior Iris Fue said she liked the atmosphere of the restaurant, as well as the quality of the food.
“I love the cafe style of the restaurant,” she said. “The prices are really reasonable for the amount of food I get, and the food is really good. I got the smoked salmon eggs Benedict, and it’s just the way I want it.”
Afternoon Delight prides itself on its consistency, its ingredients and its customer service. Hackett said all the food is homemade, and the staff is very well adjusted to serving customers during lunch rushes.
“It gets very hectic during the rushes,” he said. “It’s controlled chaos, though; the staff is organized and prepared for it. Every week it’s the same, and they are more than willing and ready to tackle it. We are big on customer service and consistency.”