In the coronavirus era, reopening restaurants and bars won’t be as easy as ordering supplies, calling back workers and unlocking the doors.
Everything from ketchup bottles on tables, masks for most workers and booth seats may be reworked to accommodate the new reality.
Dayton area restaurant owner Tom Gunlock served on Gov. Mike DeWine’s restaurant advisory committee, which finished its work Monday after marathon video conference meetings over the weekend.
Gunlock said restaurant owners and health experts went over details such as whether condiment containers are left on tables and disinfected between patrons or brought to the table upon request; whether grill cooks should be required to wear masks under hot, sweaty conditions; how many seats should be removed and what kind of protection dividers between booths provide.
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Each restaurant and bar’s setup presents questions about how to best institute social distancing and disinfection, he said. For example, when it comes automatic self-serve soda pop machines patrons use to customize their soft drink, should the buttons be wiped off each time or should an employee be stationed at the machine to assist the customer?
“It goes on and on — the needs for each restaurant,” he said. “And you need to do it in way that when you present it to the public, it’s easily understandable.”
Restaurants across Ohio were shut down on March 15 for dine-in service, though many are still providing delivery and curbside pick up meals.
DeWine is expected to announce a plan for reopening restaurants and bars in the coming days.
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The Ohio Restaurant Association reported that more than 300,000 employees have been laid off or furloughed and nearly half of all locations are closed. Ohio has more than 23,000 food service locations.
“Every week that goes by will claim another percentage of restaurants that will disappear permanently, and communities that will be left without their local restaurants that are often the cornerstones of their downtowns and neighborhoods and fuel so much economic development,” the association said in a recent statement.
Restaurants account for half of all food sales.
Other states are allowing restaurants to reopen, often at reduced seating capacity.
“The issue will be around the social distancing more than anything else,” Gunlock said. “The more seats you take out, the less chance you’ll be profitable.”
He added, “I think it can be done safely.”
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