Restaurants in Texas are gearing up for Friday -- the day Gov. Greg Abbott said they can reopen at no more than 25% capacity.
Though the governor has given the option to reopen, some are choosing to remain closed for safety reasons or profit concerns. Others, however, are planning to open and will be able to less than two days from now.
Tim Love owns nine restaurants across Dallas-Fort Worth and more in Austin and Houston. He plans to reopen most of his D-FW area businesses after weeks of safety planning to ensure employee and customer safety.
“We’re opening, most importantly, with a very, very stringent safety protocol that we’ve put together for our teams at all of our restaurants,” Love said. “It’s a very comprehensive, 12-page document that I put together to make sure that we have the safety of our employees first. And of course with the safety of our employees that carries on to the guests.”
The state of Texas outlined several minimum requirements for restaurant owners who plan to reopen. That list includes tables of no more than six people, making hand sanitizing stations available, and training for employees on cleaning and disinfection.
Love’s list goes well beyond those requirements.
“When you come to our restaurants, we’ll take your temperature, first of all, our staff gets their temperature checked every day and recorded,” Love said. “We all wear masks, obviously, the kitchen will wear gloves, and then we have an every 30-minute handwashing requirement.”
“And then when the guests arrive, we’ll take the temperature of the guest and a name and e-mail, just so we know who has been here,” Love added.
At a few of his restaurants he will offer a drink to customers after they have their temperature taken, understanding this will be an adjustment.
“I think the new normal is going to make people a little bit nervous so what we want to do is ensure people that we’re going to be safe, but at the same time keep it lively because that’s why, why we all want to gather,” Love said. “We want to go out and have some fun and we want to ensure that safety is first and fun comes right after.”
Colleyville got a bit of a head start in front of others in the industry. A proclamation by the mayor gave the restaurants in town an opportunity to serve on the patio.
Brent Johnson owns Rio Mambo in Colleyville, but also owns seven other restaurants across D-FW. He said customers are energized, but his staff is prepared.
“Don’t underestimate the amount of staff that you need to pull off this experience,” Johnson said. “We put one person doing just chips and salsa. We use another who just watches the restroom, sanitizes the restroom every time somebody comes in and out, we allow three at a time. And we have one person who just sanitizes the dining room.”
Johnson also took the time off to train his staff.
“We re-certified all of our staff and our managers in Safe Serve, because there are new points that you want to really emphasize,” Johnson said.
Dallas County Public Health Director Philip Huang wants everyone to proceed with caution, regardless of if they are an employer, employee, or customer.
“Just because it’s now allowed to be open, does not mean that you have to be open,” Huang said. “I think everyone needs to look at what is responsible from their own perspective and what can be done to continue to prevent the spread of this COVID-19.”
But Tim Love believes restaurants are among the safest places one can visit.
“Let’s think about it, restaurants are really the only place that get inspected for sanitation on a regular basis,” Love said. “Unlike a grocery store, or Home Depot, or office building, or a train, or a subway, or a bus, we actually have inspections for our sanitation, so restaurants inherently are safer place than anywhere else.”
Regardless, Love has confidence in his extensive plan that he hopes will keep both his team and customers safe.
“I think it’s paramount that we get moving again, but it’s also paramount that we move in a safe way,” Love said.