Harmony Lunch's new owner hopes to win over diner's 'die-hard loyalists'

Waterloo's iconic Harmony Lunch re-opened under new ownership over the weekend. Owner Nick Benninger says he hopes the changes he's made will bring in new clientele, and eventually win over the die-hard loyalists.

'Die-hard loyalists have sort of shaken their fist at me'

New owner Nick Benninger mans the grill at the new Harmony Lunch. On the diner's first day back in business they went through 200 pounds of onions. (Harmony Lunch/Facebook)

Waterloo's iconic Harmony Lunch re-opened over the weekend, and the new owner says he hopes the changes he's made will appeal to new clients and not ruffle the feathers of the diner's loyal customer base. At least not too much. 

Among the changes: a garage-door style front entrance for open-air eating on nice days, renovated bathrooms, a liquor licence and extended hours to 2 a.m. from Thursday through Saturday, which means Harmony Lunch will also be open for late-night snacking. 

"Die-hard loyalists have sort of shaken their fist at me and I think they would have anyways. I think they were destined to resist the new generation, regardless of my intentions," said new owner Nick Benninger.

"It's kind of fun," said Benninger. "And I hope if I'm 86 years old... and still cooking when someone takes over for me I hope some of my customers give the new guy a hard time too."
A new garage door that can open onto the street for almost al fresco dining on nice days has replaced a wall full of curtained windows. (Harmony Lunch/Facebook)

Signs of the old Harmony Lunch remain, including a block of wood hanging above the grill. The well-worn floorboard is where the former owners stood, flipping burgers all those years. 

"There's about a three-quarter inch groove in the wood from where they stood, and shuffled their feet making hamburgers. We've got that kind of as a tip of the hat to all their hard work," said Benninger. 

The Marks family never shared their secret burger recipe, but Benninger and his cooks have done their best to replicate the classic. 

On their first day back in business Harmony Lunch went through: 

  • 400 pounds of potatoes. 
  • 600 burger buns.
  • 40 litres of milkshakes.
  • 6 litres of cheese sauce.
  • 200 pounds of onions.
  • 4 litres of pickle relish.
  • 4 litres of ballpark mustard.

With files from the CBC's Carmen Ponciano


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