Restaurants Across U.S. Put Reopening Plans in Place, From Mannequin Diners to Timers for Hand Washing

A foodserver at the Parkshore Grill restaurant wears a protective face mask as he waits on customers Monday, May 4, 2020, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Several restaurants are reopening with a 25% capacity as part of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' plan to stop the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Chris …
Chris O'Meara/AP Photo

The coronavirus has been devastating for restaurants across America, forcing many to be reduced to takeout service only and others shutting down altogether. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, eating and drinking establishments lost 5.5 million jobs in April, not including a half million jobs lost in March.

“Eating and drinking places are the primary component of the total restaurant and foodservice industry, which prior the coronavirus outbreak employed 12 million out of the total restaurant and foodservice workforce of 15.6 million,” a report from the National Restaurant Association said.

Now, as states around the country are slowly opening up, restaurants are putting plans in place to see if they will be among the coronavirus survivors. 

Here is a sampling of restaurant news across the country:

Virginia

As Breitbart News reported, a popular Virginia destination is reopening after the coronavirus shutdown and visitors who come to eat at the Inn at Little Washington will share the space with mid-century mannequin diners seated to implement social distancing.

Town and Country magazine reported on the creative comeback:

Chef and proprietor Patrick O’Connell, a James Beard award-winner, is conceptualizing these intricate scenes to comply with capacity regulations, implemented in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Inn is working with two local businesses to stage the tables. For authenticity, Signature Theatre, a Tony-award winning non-profit professional theater company, will help create the scenes and Design Foundry, team of carpenters, painters, designers, fabricators, will facilitate construction.

The mannequin-filled reopening also comes alongside a new menu. O’Connell is still working out the details, but we know it will feature the restaurant’s signature whimsy. Even before the mannequins, the Inn was known for its irreverent take on dining, from its cheese specialist with a mooing cow cart, speaking exclusively in puns, to the dining room dress code: no wet bikinis.

California

Restaurants in California have to reopen following the very restrictive guidelines that Gov. Gavin Newsom put in place.

“Dine-in restaurants, brewpubs, breweries, bars, pubs, craft distilleries, and wineries that provide sit-down meals should follow the restaurant guidance below and should continue to encourage takeout and delivery service whenever possible,” the guidelines said.

Law360 reported on pushback against the restrictions:

In April, a group of California companies sued state and county officials in federal court, demanding they overturn orders closing nonessential businesses in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

California-incorporated companies including restaurants and tourism services argued in their complaint that the coronavirus-related “shelter in place” orders violate their constitutional rights and will drive them out of business. Fearing the havoc that is already crippling the state’s economy, the businesses’ mass action challenges the orders as an infringement on their civil rights and liberties under the U.S. and state constitutions.

Florida

Florida is one of the states that is embracing reopening safely to get small businesses back on board, including restaurants. The Tampa Bay Times reported on some of the restaurants and how they are handling the post-lockdown scenario:

At Big John’s Alabama Bar-B-Que in East Tampa this week, a steady lunchtime crowd stood in line outside the 52-year-old establishment as a masked employee took orders behind a plastic-screened walk-up window. It’s a now-familiar ritual after nearly two months of life in the coronavirus pandemic.

Although Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to gradually reopen the state allows restaurants to serve customers inside at 25 percent of maximum capacity, and the city has encouraged restaurants to set up outdoor seating in parking lots, the family-owned business preferred a wait-and-see attitude.

“Just like we cook our barbecue, we’re going to take our time,” said Corey Miller, grandson of the founders who helps run the restaurant.

Texas

Texas is another state that is working hard to get back to pre-virus operations. One restaurant owner said that his property is “cleaner than a hospital.”

The Killeen Daily Herald reported on what restaurants are up to after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott relaxed restriction on dining establishments:

According to Abbott’s May 27 directive, restaurants have been permitted to open at 25 percent capacity for dining room services, as many continue to provide curbside, drive through and delivery options.

Locally owned Little Italy, on South Fort Hood Street in Killeen, served its first customers on May 1, after a deep cleaning in the week prior, according to general manager Gary Revel Jr.

“We took the whole place apart and cleaned it from top to bottom,” Revel said. “We used the best products you could buy—we joke, ‘this restaurant is cleaner than a hospital.’”

Christina Kocher, general manager of Rosa’s Cafe, said the restaurant was cleaned thoroughly and daily cleansing efforts include coronavirus protocol.

“Those include the company providing masks that have to be worn at all times — having them to have the masks on before they walk into building — and gloves to all our employees.” Kocher said. “Having a timer set for everyone to wash their hands and change their gloves and when it is necessary.”

“Kocher said everyone has their temperature screened before they clock in for their shift, and they are also asked a series of questions about how they are feeling and if they have been experiencing particular symptoms associated with COVID-19,” the Herald reported. “Anyone who experiences symptoms or doesn’t pass the temperature check is asked to see a doctor — and required to bring a note from their physician before returning to work, Kocher said.”

“For our guests, we are providing extra sanitizing areas in the store,” Kocher said, including door handles, tables, chairs, bathrooms, drink stations, and condiment areas being sanitized every 15 minutes.

Indiana

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is reopening the state, including restaurants, with most restaurants operating at 50 percent capacity.

The local ABC affiliate reported on the developments in the state.

“Radius, a restaurant in Porter County closed down back in March. Nearly two months later, owner Chris Pavlou was happy to see his customers dining in again,” ABC reported.

“Today has been great,” Pavlou said. We have a lot of regulars that are excited to be here,” he said. “We got the place ready for social distancing. We have our masks and the employees are wearing them, and we are being very sanitary.”

The customers will not be required to wear masks, Pavlou said.

“We feel a little cooped up,” said Nathan Walker, a customer  said in the ABC report. “We got appetizers, soup and we ate like we had not eaten in seven weeks.”

“The Rosewood Family Restaurant in Portage had to close down completely for two months,” ABC reported. “The restaurant is now wiping down menus and keeping patrons as far apart as they can.”

“We’re just glad to be back,” Maggie Karakozis, owner of Rosewood family restaurant, said. “Wanna welcome everybody back and hopefully we’re gonna get back to I know it’s a new normal but some sort of a new normal.”

Arizona

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey relaxed restrictions in the state so that some restaurants can now offer dine-in services, including large chains and mom and pop operations. Diners will be separated to conform with social distancing requirements and only parties of 10 or fewer will be seated.

“Our goal is not to be busy for the first week,” said Phoenix-based restaurant owner Sam Fox. “Our goal is to make sure we have our procedures in place, our employees are feeling safe. We really want to get this right the first time.”

The Eagle reported on what restaurants are putting into place in the state:

Fox, the founder of Fox Restaurant Concepts with a variety of the brands around Arizona and the country, said 11 stores opened Monday in four markets. Flower Child locations in Atlanta, Phoenix and Tucson are open, along with The Henry and Dough Bird. He plans to follow with several Culinary Dropout and Zinburger locations in the coming days.

Restaurant owners described a variety of steps they’re taking to ensure customers and workers feel safe, from separating tables to providing masks, gloves and health screenings for employees when they arrive.

In a Flower Child restaurant in the Phoenix neighborhood of Arcadia, the usually crowded restaurant had many tables missing. Some of the others were marked as reserved to maintain distance between customers. A handful of people dined on salads, bowls or entrees, but most of the food went as takeout.

“We’re just excited to be back up and running and to be able to do the thing we know best, and that’s to make food, see family get-togethers and be able to interact with the public again,” said Frank Lara, vice president of operations for Chompies, where plastic screens have been installed between booths.

“The Downtown Diner in Flagstaff reopened Monday after being closed since late March,” the Eagle reported. “Dine-in customers were offered packaged plastic utensils, to-go boxes, and to-go cups with lids and straws. But General Manager Mark Gent said some opted for traditional dishes, silverware and mugs.”

“People are pretty bold,” he said. “I think people are ready to get that little sense of normality back.”

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