Going out to eat: Restaurants face unique challenges in reopening

Drew Butler

After weeks of only being able to serve customers to-go orders, restaurants in the Ardmore area were once again able to serve customers in their dining rooms beginning May 1. As time has passed and CDC recommendations have been reduced, restaurants are now working towards the “new normal” and learning more about how procedures will work moving forward.

Aubry Harris, owner of Two Frogs, said during the time of the shut downs, his business dropped by between 60% and 70%. He said this number quickly bounced back. By the middle of May, however, he said customer volumes had increased to numbers similar to the totals from last year.

When the restaurant first reopened, they were handing each guest an individual paper menu to be thrown away, but the restaurant changed its policy after discovering disposable menus to be unsustainable.

“The first two weeks we went through almost 6,000 menus, and it cost us almost $500 to print them all,” Harris said. “Now we have one hostess who’s job it is to spray them all down. After every use, the menus are being sprayed down with a 70% alcohol content spray.”

Harris said he has doubled the number of hosts and hostesses employed in order to keep any item touched by multiple customers sprayed and wiped down.

“I have twice as many hosts as I usually have,” Harris said. “I have one spraying menus, and one cleaning ketchup bottles and things like that. So we’re literally double staffed trying to keep everything cleaned and sprayed down.”

Other changes include keeping the front doors open so that guests do not need to touch door handles. He said the tables are also all spaced farther apart to encourage social distancing. However he noted this can be a difficult task when a large group of people come in to eat.

“During the week, it’s easy to do social distancing,” Harris said. “But as soon as you get a ball team in, they’re all pushing their tables together, and it’s almost an impossible situation to try to enforce.”

Harris said the restaurant will continue following the guidelines issued by health officials.

“We’re just trying to do everything the CDC is telling us to do,” Harris said. “We’re hoping to get back to whatever normal may be.”