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Safe Dining? Hard to Imagine, but Many Restaurants Are Trying

Though widespread reopenings may be a long way off, chefs and health officials have begun studying how a post-pandemic restaurant might look.

ATLANTA — This week, a restaurant here intends to sell what will likely be America’s first dry-aged porterhouse steak served by a waiter at a white-tablecloth restaurant in the midst of a global pandemic.

Gov. Brian Kemp, citing state health data showing that the state may have hit its peak of Covid-19 deaths on April 7, has given Georgia restaurants permission to begin table service on Monday. A handful will tiptoe back into business early in the week, but none with the robust enthusiasm of the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, whose roster includes an upscale fish house, a French brasserie and a fancy diner with $15 burgers. If all goes according to plan, five of its seven restaurants plan to begin table service on Friday.

“Everyone’s going to the grocery stores, and there are some grocery stores where nobody has any gloves on,” said Pano Karatassos, a corporate executive chef for the group. “We are going to have an experience in my mind that’s 10 times safer. What we’re doing is looking to move forward with the new way of dining.”

For most American restaurateurs and their customers, the idea of reopening a dining room with waiters and a wine list may seem unthinkable when most of the country remains locked down and the nation’s death toll from Covid-19 has topped 50,000.

But even before the first of the nation’s scattered restaurant openings in Georgia and Alaska got the green light, chefs and public health officials around the country began considering in some detail how a post-pandemic restaurant might look. Although many restaurateurs are still unsure if they will ever open their doors again, there are plenty — from fast-food operators to chefs at the most elite temples of haute cuisine — who spend their days strategizing how to get back to hosting diners.

Culinary and health organizations are drawing up guidelines and protocols for re-creating the American dining room as a safe space — even while acknowledging that could take many months or even longer to happen.



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