Biggest Hurdles Restaurants Face When the Time Comes to Reopen
Governor Edwards is rolling out the process of incrementally reopening the economy in Louisiana. I reached out to a few restaurant owners in Lafayette to find out what they predict their biggest hurdle will be when the time to reopen comes.
Michelle Ezell, the owner of Tsunami, tells me that the biggest hurdle her team will face will be the (likely) reduction in dining room capacity. "If social distancing parameters must be met within the dining area, that will greatly reduce our capacity," Ezell said. "We hear that the government will be limiting us to 25% capacity. Turning away guests is NOT something a restaurant enjoys doing nor can afford to do."
Tsunami is in the process of placing tables outside of their establishment in preparation for the loosening of restrictions announced by Governor Edwards this week.
Tim Metcalf, the owner of Deano's Pizza, said that their biggest hurdle is/will be government restrictions. "Restaurants are ready!" Metcalf says, adding that most won't be able to survive much longer if this (the shutdown) continues. "We have a plan in place that will make dining with us safer than shopping at any big box store. Restaurants already do hygiene really well" he said. "Government is our biggest obstacle: they move the goalposts and make up arbitrary bad policy as they move forward."
When asked whether his restaurant was ready to open with the rumored government capacity limit, Metcalf said "We're ready for whatever they throw at us. We're not certain how much we'll lose, because we're hearing that they will be enforcing either a 25% or 50% limit. We have plans ready for both. It seems that the government is making things up with no science or business in mind; they just need to get out of our way and let us do what we do best."
Ezell and Metcalf both shared concern for their customers and doing everything they can to make their customers comfortable. "Tsunami and its staff will abide by the government's guidelines when they allow us to reopen," she said, adding "We want our guests to not only enjoy their time when they visit us, but we want them to feel safe". Metcalf said that he, too, wants his customers to feel safe. "If we fail to make them feel safe, we lose," he said.
Both owners did say that regardless of what they do, the "court of public opinion" will always have something to say. "We won't need government inspectors to know if we are doing a good job, Social Media will be chiming in," Metcalf said with a chuckle. Ezell also mentioned Social Media: "The judgment coming from the thumb warriors nit-picking every move a restaurant makes does add to the difficulty (of reopening); as of yet, we've been given no formal requirements or training. We'll be navigating this thing (reopening) with only the experience we already have under our belt."
Judging by the success of both Deano's and Tsunami, that experience should be plenty.
When the time does come for restaurants to reopen, please keep in mind the difficulties we have all endured during the shutdown. Be patient, be kind, be generous, but most of all, be back! The restaurants and their employees need us now more than ever.