Atlanta-based Castellucci Hospitality Group sent out a survey this week asking diners when they will feel comfortable returning to dining rooms and the safety protocols they hope to see in place when they do.
Like thousands of restaurant owners across Georgia given the green light by Gov. Brian Kemp to reopen for dine-in service, CEO Federico Castellucci, III must now decide when that should safely occur at each of the group’s seven Atlanta-area restaurants.
Castellucci and his family successfully pivoted Bar Mercado and Recess at Krog Street Market, Cooks & Soldiers, two The Iberian Pig locations, Double Zero, and Sugo to takeout only operations in mid-March. All continue to do a brisk to-go businesses. But the decision to reopen the restaurants for dine-in service involves a mixed bag of factors, including science-backed data, the health and safety of staff and patrons, and financial feasibility due to diminished capacity in the dining rooms.
In other words, it’s wildly complicated.
“I’m curious as to what the customer sentiment is right now,” Castellucci says of the reopening survey. “Our plan is largely set, it’s just a matter of when.”
The survey features questions such as how soon people will feel confident dining out in public, whether they plan to eat with people living outside of their household, how they prefer to pay, and the safety measures people want to see in place at the restaurants.
Reopening the group’s restaurants could happen as soon as May 19. That date is tentative, and based mostly on data from public health officials, Castellucci tells Eater Atlanta. The number of COVID-19 cases is expected to spike in Georgia over the coming weeks with businesses reopening across the state and the statewide shelter-in-place order now lifted. New models indicate the United States could see as many as 3,000 deaths per day by June 1, as other states around the country begin reopening their economies. This latest model gives Castellucci pause, who says he’s “less confident” in the May 19 date, even as the group moves forward with reopening preparations.
“We will open the restaurants when we believe it is safe for our guests, staff and communities,” he says. “Patios will certainly be a big part of the new dining landscape, but we will open those up concurrently with our dining rooms.”
Cities like Brookhaven, just north of Atlanta, are trying to make it easier for restaurants to expand outdoor seating. Brookhaven offers a no-cost Temporary Outdoor Restaurant Operations Permit that allows restaurants to utilize tents, parking lots, and other outdoor spaces as potential seating areas. Recent studies indicate people may be more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 within enclosed spaces, such as restaurant dining rooms
Georgia restaurants that choose to reopen for dine-in service right now must comply with a set of state-mandated health and safety guidelines through at least May 13, and are currently limited to ten diners per 500 square feet inside the dining room and bar areas through that date. It’s unclear if the governor plans to extend the guideline period on businesses and restaurants beyond May 13.
“Personally, I think putting this [reopening] decision in the hands of individual business owners is a recipe for disaster, but here we are.”
Take a look at some of the safety measures that could be in place when Castellucci Hospitality Group reopens dining rooms:
- Plexiglass dividers in certain areas.
- Removal of much of the indoor seating.
- All staff in masks and gloves.
- Hand sanitizer wipes for guests as they arrive and leave.
- Host stands outside (weather permitting)
- Large stickers on the ground to indicating a social distance of six feet between people waiting to be seated.
- Enhanced sanitization.
- Mobile ordering.
- Contactless payment options.
- Less server contact overall during meals, including a system in place for people to request service at their table when needed.
Take the Castellucci Hospitality Group reopening survey here.
Residents of Atlanta are being asked to voice their opinions on how the city should reopen for business by taking an online survey. The survey is featured on the city’s official COVID-19 response website, #ATLStrong.org. People can also complete the survey by calling 404-546-0311.
Stay home if sick. Check the Georgia Department of Public Health website for guidance and twice-daily updates on the latest number of reported COVID-19 cases.