How Atlanta Restaurants Adapt as COVID Mask Restrictions Relax

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To exploreDining in Atlanta in the Age of COVID-19

Logue needs these extra hands to meet the growing demand for on-site dining as more people dine out after a year of take-out and home cooking.

One unit of measure that indicates an increase in traffic is the number of meals or customers served, known in the industry as a blanket.

“We did 130 reruns on Friday and Saturday, including 118 on the Resy waiting list. The demand is there, sure, but there’s not much you can do with one bartender and short of kitchen staff, ”Logue said.

To exploreMother’s Day draws crowds to metro restaurants amid rollback of COVID rules

Restaurants are no longer required to socially distance the tables and consumer confidence in restaurants is increasing. According to a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, nearly 61% of respondents said they would feel safe in a restaurant at full capacity. Even so, Logue said he wouldn’t sit at full capacity without adequate staff.

Vince Palermo, general manager of Vinings’ gourmet restaurant, Canoe, is on a similar boat. “We’re looking to fill it all in,” he said, citing 20% ​​fewer employees than in pre-pandemic times. “We haven’t returned our dining room to its pre-COVID capacity just because I don’t have the staff to plan.”

The number of bookings Canoe accepts each week depends on staff availability.

Palermo said the lack of staff impacted not only reception operations, but the kitchen as well. With fewer cooks in line, the menu is still in recovery mode. “While still a sufficient supply, we are doing less than we would optimally like to do because we don’t have the people to cook the food,” he said.

Some companies have started offering hiring bonuses. Others, like CRU Food & Wine Bar, are pushing their employees to recruit on behalf of the company, according to managing partner Foster Smith, who said staff were down 15% to 20% below the mark. normal.

The act of juggling involves more than matching staff size to table reservations. Throughout the pandemic, restaurants have tried to ensure the safety of staff and customers while upholding the principles of hospitality. At times, restaurant workers have found themselves in hostile situations when attempting to enforce policies of masks, social distancing and other protective measures.

Restaurants are still navigating safety protocols even though people are vaccinated, daily reported coronavirus deaths have fallen across the state, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated their guidelines to include only fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear masks outdoors, or indoors in many cases. According to an AJC survey, 1 in 4 Georgians say they do not get the vaccine.

Workers statewide are no longer required to wear face coverings when interacting with customers, but it is up to individual restaurants to decide whether to maintain mask requirements.

The employees of Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails in Milton got rid of the masks while not far from Osteria Mattone in Roswell, the waiters still wear them.

At Canoe, masks became voluntary for staff and customers on May 10. “He was well received by the guests,” said Palermo. “Guests say,” It’s so nice to see your face again. “”

Customers like Douglasville’s Debra Kachnic aren’t surprised that staff no longer wear masks, but others don’t have the same level of comfort.

Even though she is fully vaccinated, East Point resident Carlyn Redding, 68, says she won’t be dining at a restaurant if front desk staff aren’t wearing masks.

Dacula’s Ronald Horist is also not ready to throw caution – or his mask – to the wind. “Even though I am fully vaccinated, I still wear a mask,” he said.

Neither Horist nor Redding are eager to visit a restaurant that is back at full capacity. “I’d rather not be completely blown away,” said Horist, who took the AJC’s poll with Kachnic and Redding.

The key to handling a wide range of customer desires is flexibility, said Mimmo Alboumeh, chef-owner of Botica, a Mexican-Spanish fusion restaurant located in the former Watershed space on Peachtree Road in Buckhead.

“You have to be flexible. It is difficult to deal with the guests. We want to give them an experience to come back. Botica staff wear masks, but Alboumeh said now that he’s been vaccinated, when interacting with guests, he tries to match their comfort zone. “You want me to wear a mask, I’m going to wear a mask. You want me to take off my mask, take it off, ”he said, greeting guests dining on the terrace during a busy Mother’s Day that saw between 750 and 800 people.

Unlike most restaurants, Botica doesn’t face a staffing crisis. Open only since January, it has nearly 70 people in its ranks, 80% of whom are full-time workers. Alboumeh attributes the attraction to a flexible and understanding work culture and above-average pay for all positions. “I treat them better than anyone will treat them,” he said.

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