Dan Thomas is truly a restaurateur with a magic touch. The well-known proprietor of The Gathering in San Diego’s Mission Hills, he is also its resident magician, In fact, for Dan Thomas, magic and the foodservice business have been lifetime passions.
Thomas’ 35-year career journey began when, at age 15, he worked at a local drive-in called Oscar’s. Going on to major in business at San Diego State, Thomas supported himself by continuing to work in the restaurant business, never dreaming that it would become his lifetime profession.
By the time he graduated from college, Thomas knew he would put his education to use in the industry he’d grown to love. In 1974, along with two other partners, Thomas opened the first of three successful restaurants in the San Diego area. In 1980, seeking a change of scene, he moved to Miami Beach. There he opened two restaurants, a liquor store and his famous Magic Bar where he could combine the restaurant business and his beloved magic.
Missing his Southern California home, however, Thomas returned to San Diego in 1986 and opened The Gathering in Mission Hills. Since then he has served breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week – along with a healthy helping of magic – to a growing and loyal clientele. Thomas and a corps of other magicians entertain guests with magic Thursday through Sunday evenings.
Thomas has witnessed the many changes in Main Street USA. He’s watched a new breed of entrepreneur emerge that has leveraged technology to create ventures that were unimaginable 10 years ago. Yet Thomas is confident that there still remains room for the traditional entrepreneur like himself.
“Technology,” he says. “Has increased the speed and efficiency of our lives, but the human element is sometimes lacking. We’re analog being in a digital world and that’s why the restaurant business is so important. We offer one of the last bastions of personal attention where servers understand that the guest experience goes far beyond good food and efficiency.
It’s about hospitality and concern for a guest’s comfort. We make it a rule to made exceptions. It’s about the bond of human interaction.”That philosophy probably explains why The Gathering is a thriving, million-dollar business that was named one of the “best neighborhood restaurants” by San Diego Magazine in 1999.