Restaurants Coping as Takeout Only Businesses

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It’s been a month since restaurants in New Haven have switched to takeout only, and there’s at least another month to go. 

“We’re set up for it. We have a side entrance so we’re keeping people one in one out,” said William “Billy Modern” Pustari, owner of Modern Apizza.

But he says business is down 50 percent. The pizzas still going out the door are keeping food on the table.

“Takeout is keeping my guys working,” said Pustari. He added that some of his staff have been there for 20 years or more.

“We have the manager working the counter now, answering the phones taking orders so their jobs have shifted. We’re not doing any back-kitchen stuff so no grinders or dinners or salads, we’re doing just pizza.”

Pustari is thinking about changes to the restaurant when they reopen, like adding plexiglass to the backs of the booths. But some customer solutions are tough to figure out. 

“Are they going to be okay with a waiter or waitress coming up to them to take their order, or dropping off their food?”

And a big part of the changes will be what the state will require.

“I don’t see it coming back to where it was two months ago. I think this whole industry is going to change, and if you don’t adapt to it fast enough, you’re not going to make it. It’s a tough business already.”

While some find ways to adjust, owners of the other takeout go-to, Chinese food, expressed concern even before the virus outbreak. In early March, owners told Gov. Ned Lamont that sales were down as much as 30 percent.

“New Haven was famous for its food. New Haven was a foodie town,” said Pustari. And he believes things could be very different.

“You’re going to lose a third of every restaurant in the city, I believe."

Take-out continues at Christopher Martin’s. Staff says it’s going well and they’re staying afloat for now, but uncertainty looms with not knowing how long dining rooms statewide will be closed.

“We have a lot of regular people even from out of state that have been buying gift certificates and help support during the hard time,” said Debbie Petruzzelli.

And for now, that’s all many restaurants can do.

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