Covid shutdowns from a restaurant owner's point of view

I read this recently, and it really got me thinking. It’s so true.

This is brilliant! Written by a restaurant owner:

As I walk into the grocery store with 30 other people at the same time, I think about my restaurant which allows parties of 6 total, and meticulously spaces out reservations by 10 minutes ensuring guests that aren’t from the same party do not arrive at the same time.

As I take a cart, that has had just the handle sanitized, I think about my restaurant which invested thousands of dollars (so far) on ink and paper to print disposable menus to ensure no two guests touch the same menu.

As I walk over to the produce aisle with 15-20 other people around me, I’m reminded of the strict “no mingling / no walking around the restaurant other than to use the washroom or enter/exit” policy we have in place and the 6ft distance between tables which has cut our capacity in half.

As I watch the woman next to me pick up apples with her hand, check them over closely and then put them back on the open pile and repeats this until she finds the perfect apples — the same thing that all other people that day who want an apple will then do and then put those apples into their mouths, I think about the two step sanitation process in place at my restaurant for all cutlery and dishes and glassware in between every single guest, and the sanitation of every surface guests touch (tables, chairs, salt and pepper shakers, etc).

As I watch the man in the next aisle over ignore or not notice the directional arrows on the ground, I think about my restaurant and the constant redirecting our staff does of guests - by locking certain doors, blocking areas off and the work my team does to simply not allow guests to walk where they are not supposed to.

As I walk down the cereal aisle, I see a person with their mask off so they can talk on the phone, and I’m reminded of my restaurant where our masking policy has lost us so much business.

As I check out at the cashier, I use my debit card to pay and see the plastic film covering the terminal. It was not sanitized after the person before me used it. I am reminded of the sanitizer used on the debit terminals in between each guest every time at my restaurant.

As I stand at a crowded exit trying to leave, I’m reminded of the detailed contact tracing in place at my restaurant that records the name, phone number, table number, arrival and exit time, as well as the server and section the guest sat in that is in place at my restaurant— not one of those pieces of information was taken from any customer here.

As I get into my car and watch all these people leave the store, I wonder which person will visit my establishment after contracting covid at this grocery store, and I wonder why on earth my restaurant will be blamed as the source.

Restaurants are being targeted as the “source” of Covid infections because we are one of the ONLY industries required to provide contact tracing.

Someone with Covid could have gone to Costco, Home Depot, Walmart, the Mall food court…any grocery store, etc. Yet it’s the restaurant that took their detailed information that will be forced to close and deemed responsible for the infection.

You want to blame restaurants for the spread after thousands of dollars investing in equipment, training and stricter policies than ANYWHERE ELSE?!

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WCG, this is heartbreaking to read and we lament the devastating loss of restaurants in our neighborhood and city. That said, the focus is on surface transmission, which it seems is far less important than initially surmised. Inadequate ventilation and duration of exposure appear to be much more important. Grocery and big box stores tend to have better ventilation and shorter visits than restaurants.

I wonder about steps we could take as communities and society to better support the restaurant industry and foster public health. Health care and sick leave that covers hourly workers would help. So would affordable business insurance tailored to restaurants that covers all risks - pandemics, floods, snow storms, earthquakes…

Onions, what other steps could help? I think Congress is sympathetic to the plight of restaurants, but so far hasn’t enacted anything specific. Some timely and focused advocacy might be in order.

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I do too. Even in countries that have vaccines on the way, the coming months are shaping up to be the toughest yet for people in the restaurant business. Also I fear about food insecurity overall—by which I mean, people not getting enough to eat because they’ve lost work hours or lost their jobs.

At my house, we decided to “adopt” a local cafe early in the pandemic and focus our takeout business with them. Also making monetary donations to our area food pantry. I tell myself that every little bit does help, though I too have been wondering about other forms of advocacy that could make a useful difference.

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TT: what you are doing is admirable. We’ve “adopted” 2 local places. One pivoted rather well to take-out, the other struggled - for a while. They finally hit on the idea of school-night “subscriptions”, and within a matter of days they sold out for the entire month of January. Take-out will help keep restaurants from going completely under, but staffing levels are well below normal and a lot of servers are jobless.

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Agree wholeheartedly. Sigh.

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I feel for the restaurant owner and also understand why s/he doesnt mention that restaurants are one of comparitively few places that will have its customers in a relatively small space for an hour or so, often with poor ventilation.

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In Spain & Italy: All food and wine businesses are booming with deliveries door to door.

Take out has grown but the home delivery business is enormous.

TERRACES with outdoor heating lamps and blankets is also very successful.

SPAIN: MOST RESTAURANTS ARE OPEN WITH A 23.00 Curfew in Madrid. CURFEWS VARY IN BARCELONA. 22.00 FOR RESTAURANTS …

PEOPLE WORKING NEED TO BE ABLE TO GO TO BAR - RESTAURANT FOR LUNCH AS THEY MAY NOT LIVE CLOSE TO THEIR OFFICES.

IN ITALIA: RESTAURANTS CLOSE EARLY RANGING FROM 18.00 to 19.00 … at moment. THE JANUARY DECREES HAVE NOT BEEN RELEASED YET.

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Yes – early on it was glaringly obvious that sustained close contact is the predominant environmental risk. The early Spring New York nursing home casualties counts were an unfortunate Exhibit A. Addressing fomite transmission provides good optics.

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I live in an area of England where restaurants are completely closed (the other three nations of the UK have their own regulations). A small number in my area are offering takeaway and/or home delivery. As with the earlier national lockdown, we’ve substituted our weekly “restaurant night” for “delivery night”. Generally we’ve ordered from one of the restaurants, rather than the businesses which have always just done takeaway/delivery. Unfortunately, with one exception, none of the restaurants we go to regularly are offering takeaway/delivery. So, that has meant our meals have been second best - but a break from cooking one night a week.

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It has been wrenchingly difficult to walk past family-run restaurants that are struggling and again summoning the extra initiative and energy that brought them to life. We too have tried to wear out paths to several restaurants we previously frequented, and we take a bit of comfort from seeing many waiting bags lined up with ours.

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I’m not unsympathetic, but there are 2 glaring omissions from the “article.” First, on average, people will spend far less time in a grocery store than a restaurant, which btw is also many times larger. Second, the groceries I frequent, the customers are masked as a rule. Of course there are exceptions. In a resto, literally every single patron has to remove their mask, and for a lengthy time. Covid is rarely caught through surfaces - it moves through the air and is inhaled. The longer you are in an enclosed space with other unmasked folks, the greater the risk.

I also live in a place with seasons, and while many establishments are putting some type of picnic tables and fire pits outside, others are putting up clear plastic tents with heat lamps and effectively no circulation or air flow. How this is different than indoor dining is pure semantics.

We haven’t stopped patronizing restaurants, we’ve stopped eating in them. We takeout regularly, and we want them to survive. But every time I see people taking chances, eating out, gathering with family, doing all the things my family stopped doing, I just feel sad. Sad because we are effectively under house arrest, sad because my kids are lonely. They haven’t seen their friends, they haven’t been inside a school since March. I just wish people would find ways to support small businesses without also exposing themselves and everyone they cross paths with to higher level of risk than are necessary.

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Thanks for sharing @Barca; I often wonder what it’s like there, when I see your pictures of what appears to be dining out. Are the areas you frequent doing anything like what the original article describes in their restaurants and grocery stores? Do they “eat-in” the bar/restaurant at lunch, or take out? Is it uncommon to bring lunch from home?

We had reservations to travel in Europe, as we often do last Fall, but of course it didn’t happen. Most, but not all of the places we had reservations agreed to allow us to use the deposits for next Fall, and I can’t yet imagine what expect in Europe in Fall 2021, or anywhere, for that matter.

We should have made great progress towards normality by autumn. The UK government is forecasting that the more vulnerable groups in society (basically those over 60) will have been vaccinated by spring. Of course, significant safety only comes when vaccination significantly suppresses infections, so iit will be sometime after that befroe everything feels like whatever the new normal will be. Assuming other European countries have similar plans, then life should look pretty good across the continent in some months time. By the by, latest continent wide surveys indicate that the number so people opposed to vaccination continues to fall, so there shouldnt be too much resistance in society when vaccine programmes get under way . My personal guess is that some new habits will stay with us - perhaps mask wearing in crowded areas even if it is no longer a legal requirement.

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Kwame Onwuachi and Alice Waters have an interesting op-ed piece in the Washington Post, suggesting that lifting the Trump tarrifs on food and wine would help.

(https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/onwuachi-waters-biden-resturants-tarrifs/2020/12/30/dba6d34a-4abe-11eb-a9d9-1e3ec4a928b9_story.html)

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The object of tariffs is to encourage domestic buyers at whatever level of the chain to market to substitute domestic foodstuffs and beverages for imported supplies. The importer pays the 25% tariff and chooses whether to raise prices because of the tariff; and she next chooses whether to pass on the “savings” from the eliminated tariff to the next buyer, be it a distributor or restaurant, that in turn faces the same decision about the “windfall” presumably wrought from someone passing on the eliminated tariff. The causal relationship between wholesale prices possibly elevated or reduced from passing on the tariff and menu prices and restaurant income statement vitality on a few items dependent on imported ingredients strikes us as very speculative, rather than an economic certainty.

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Firstly, each region of Spain is different due to each Regional President of the Autonomous Communities.
So it all depends on where you shall be able to go at that time. Americans are not allowed to fly to Spain, Italy, France, The U.K. amongst many other E.U. Countries and or Schengen affiliates for tourism.

Business travellers must provide NEGATIVE COVID test results and there are different tests each country requires … You can check this out on the Spanish Government Official Website for Travellers.

Also, a requirement for travellers is International Health Insurance.

As stated each region is different.

Yes, we do sit outside with heat lamps and have eaten in restaurants.

Vaccines are in process for Medical Practioners, Surgeons, Nurses, Dentists and all hospital staff at this time in Spain. The Senior Citizens Residencies and their staffs as well.
Teachers are next …
Now, there are 2 other approved Vaccines; Moderna and A.Z. from Oxford … These are being delivered in January.
It is not obligatory however, a wise idea.

The E.U. is having a meeting regarding all E.U. Travellers and Non E.U. Travellers; which shall require a vaccine that is going to be like a Visa in Passports - a certificate of Proof of vaccine to get on a plane …

So, without a vaccine, travellers may not be able to enter another country …

Returning to your other question on Dining Out; we usually go where we are well known and know the owners, and where there are few diners and distanced tables.

Otherwise we go to sit on a local terrace that has heat lamps (NOT ENCLOSED IN IGLOO TYPE DWELLINGS).

We eat at home too of course and hope to get our vaccines via our careers and necessities to travel to Italia and Madrid Capital and Portugal.

i am uncertain as to what to say as I do not like to rain on someone´s parade; however, unless you have a vaccine, i doubt that you will be able to come to The E.U.

We do not care much for delivery or take out. We prefer to prepare at home if we are going to be home.

Have a healthy, successful 2021.
Best wishes.

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Ok, thanks. Lots of useful info. Unlike most years, our reservations were mostly U.K. and not Spain, Italy.

“unless you have a vaccine, i doubt that you will be able to come to The E.U.”

Husband got his first vaccine, and I suppose I won’t be far behind, as we are both physicians; he is more “front-line” than I am, while I treat a more at risk population. He thinks this trip is going to happen, but I think the vaccine is not so we can travel.

I was baffled by a recent report of the UK considering increasing the time between the first and second immunization, so more people can get the first one.

Son and daughter in law live in Turkey, so for now at least, I think they can travel to in the E.U. too, except for the money part.

Sigh.

Still curious about whether folks there bring lunch from home.

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I’m seeing countries and territories already heading in that direction. For entrance to USVI and Puerto Rico travelers must have a current (two or three days old) PCR test. The requirement applies to internal travel (from US mainland to US territories).

I was recently in USVI and am preparing to go to PR. Our plan is to stay on the boat–fundamentally quarantine–until our travel back to the mainland is arranged. Our goal is to all fly out on the same flight and separate in CLT. My wife and I have my isolation space ready in the basement for ten to fourteen days and two PCR tests.

I can’t conceive of traveling for pleasure. Risk is too high and access to the places I’d like to see are limited if available at all.

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The scientific argument runs that the first jab gives a high level of protection, so getting that to as many people as possible makes sense in the light of the otherwise likely catastrophe of the new variant of the disease. The science also seems to indicate (it’s put no stronger than an indication at present) that an even greater protection is offered by delaying the second jab for longer than had been originally planned, but said with certainty that it is no less than the original 3/4 week between jabs…

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Intent and impact sometimes diverge. It appears the restaurateurs behind the https://stoprestauranttariffs.org/about/ are motivated by experience not speculation.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold