Eating out at local restaurants is looking and feeling much different now that businesses are adapting to a new normal because of COVID-19.
Jay Hula is the owner of That Bar and Table in Gainesville. He said the coronavirus has greatly affected the restaurant industry.
“It’s nearly impossible for us to create the same in-dining atmosphere and experience when you can only use a fraction of your restaurant,” Hula said.
He also recognizes some change might be permanent in the wake of the pandemic.
“We don’t see people sitting shoulder to shoulder around the bar driving the great cocktail revenue that we were used to, we don’t see people in the dining room wanting to come in and push tables together to have big parties and celebrations of 10, 12, 20,” Hula added.
That Bar and Table has increased outdoor seating, to-go and delivery capacity.
For Uppercrust Bakery, owner Ben Guzick said in the midst of uncertainty, restaurants are scrambling to develop new plans.
“It’s hard to even imagine going back to a world that’s normal, you know,” Guzick said.
Uppercrust Bakery has modified its business model to include social distancing and enhanced cleaning measures.
”Every 30 minutes we go on a sweep of the bakery and just, you know, sanitize all contact surfaces basically,” he said. “And it’s hard – now that we’ve created the infrastructure for that – it’s hard to imagine not doing that in the future just because it’s so good.”
They have also improved technology in the bakery to include online ordering and delivery.
“Technological improvement, which I think will have a long lasting effect,” Guzick said.
Hula agrees that technology is becoming a necessity to a business operation.
“It’s the ability to do ordering via our website or via our Facebook, that’s something that we had in the works prior to COVID but that we’ve really had to put a focus on to drive business since it could no longer come into the restaurant,” he said. “Other things we’ll be pursuing are the use of an application in the future.”
In the meantime, Hula wants to do his best to accommodate customers and adapt to the changing industry.
“Shoulder to shoulder seating at the bar may not be around, may not be back for a long time so we’ll continue to figure out how to spread people out, get as many people as we can in safely and keeping them comfortable until such point where it is deemed safe for us to go back to the old ways,” Hula said.
Hula’s message to the community is: Know that restaurants are fighting to stay alive but are continuing to do their part to serve the community and improve services. To customers: Come out and support.