While Connecticut may be behind many other states because of the severity of the coronavirus pandemic here, the reopening is coming.
For restaurants, the experience will likely be dramatically different.
Within a matter of weeks restaurants like Westbrook Lobster in Clinton will reopen at a limited capacity. It probably won’t be what diners are used to.
“We know…unfortunately without a vaccine, there’s always gonna be that sense of fear”, said Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association.
The Connecticut Restaurant Association and similar organizations in neighboring states have been working on a blueprint for reopening while trying to maintain safety.
Measures may include:
- distanced, limited seating
- reservations only for families of four or less
- time limits on the tables
- disposable menus
- no buffets, salad bars, or self-service
It has been a strange new world to Westbrook Lobster co-owner Matt Lariviere.
“People go to restaurants they go to bars to kind of kick back and relax, and when they walk in the door and everyone’s wearing masks and they’re spaced six feet apart, I don’t know what that’s gonna look like, what that perception’s gonna be.”
Lariviere may put tables outside. Wait staff will have masks, and gloves.
Alex Lavere, owner of The Inishmor Pub in Colchester, said outdoor seating would be tough.
“We actually don’t have space to put tables outside and the parking lot we use is owned and operated by the town. I never thought I’d see the day where I’d be envisioning six tables outside in a municipal parking lot with my servers wearing face masks and throwing away menus. I can safely say for the rest of the restaurant industry that is not why we got into this business.”
The changes won’t stop there. Think employee and even customer temperature checks, possible seniors only dining hours and dividers between booths.
In a business with where profit margins average three to five percent nationally, how many restaurants will survive these changes remains an open question.