Meet Ben and Haley Kirk, owners of Vessel Sandwich Co. in Flagler Beach. Married for more than a decade, the Kirks have combined their love for each other with their passion for the culinary arts. The duo dishes on how they met, their secret to a happy relationship, and juggling running a restaurant and family life.

Ben and Haley Kirk

How did you and Ben meet?

We met at a restaurant, believe it or not! We were both living in Birmingham, AL. I was finishing up my last year in college and working as a hostess and Ben was opening a new restaurant and our paths crossed. We sat up at the bar after work one night talking and the rest is history.

What’s your favorite thing about working with Ben?

He is so devoted to making every dish consistent and perfect. He is also a great teacher and has a lot of patience.

What’s your favorite thing about working with Haley?

She takes care of so much stuff that it allows me to focus on what I’m doing. She is basically the queen of multi-tasking!

How did you both get started in your profession?

Ben went to culinary school in Asheville, North Carolina and has grown up working in restaurants. Haley is actually a classical trained soprano so the restaurant industry was something she fell into. She worked at a very unique Italian restaurant in Birmingham after college where she learned a lot about the service industry and what it takes to run a restaurant.

Why did you decide to open Vessel?

After our second child was born, the demands of Ben working 80 plus hours a week running two restaurants in Birmingham was too much for our growing family. We decided to move to Florida and try our hand at running things ourselves.


Do you ever disagree at work and how do you handle it?

We disagree often! We handle it most of the time with respect for each other’s opinions and more often than not come to a compromise.

What’s your secret for a happy relationship?

Honesty is key. If something isn’t working or there is any conflict, addressing it early is essential. There are always big and small issues when owning and running a business together so being candid and working through them together is really important. We have a lot of similar interests and still enjoy talking and spending time together at work or home.

How do you juggle family and work and maintain your relationship?

It is incredibly tricky and sometimes we are great at it and sometimes we aren’t. We have three small children and on top of the daily restaurant duties, being parents is a full time job. It is really important to us for them to have fulfilling lives where they are able to thrive in and out of school. They are the reason our hours are Monday-Friday, 11-3. We want to be at the football games, performances and birthday parties. We don’t want them missing out on those or missing their parents’ presence. One of the trickiest things about restaurants is the expectation that they have to be open all the time, Holidays, weekends and late nights. We wanted to shake that up a bit.

What do you love about living and working in Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches?

We have found such a wonderful community at work and home in Flagler County. It is exciting to see all the change and opportunities for our kids and for us. The beach being so close is always a bonus of course!

What’s your idea of a perfect date night out on the town in Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches?

A perfect date night would be pizza at Faro with an Aperol Spritz of course and then a walk on the beach, ice cream in hand to watch the sunset.

How did Vessel get its name? 

When we were considering names, we knew we would be doing a version of a sandwich shop and that we would be near the beach. I read an article comparing a sandwich to a vessel because it holds all the ingredients in and it just kind of stuck. We both agreed on it!