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Fear Factor: diners wary of venturing into restaurants

Fear Factor: diners wary of venturing into restaurants

Wayne T. Lewis

When Gov. DeWine announced the timetable and regulations for re-opening bars, restaurants and personal services last week, it was met with a vocal response. Many believed the re-opening would be welcome news and one more sign we are turning the corner on the pandemic. Restaurant owners and workers could finally see some light at the end of the tunnel.

But customers have the ultimate vote and right now, their voice is sounding a firm unease about venturing out for dinner or drinks.

In an online poll conducted over 3 days (5.7-5.10.20) on this website, we asked one simple question:

With nearly 60% of the 3,444 respondents saying it is in “No way” safe to begin eating out, restaurant operators have yet another hurdle to clear on their path back to re-opening.

“I think that perception is the key.  I think that if the guest sees constant cleaning, someone actually enforcing rules etc that confidence will grow over time,” said Matt Rootes, owner of Pat and Gracie’s Downtown, Matt and Tony’s Wood Fired Kitchen, Matt and Tony’s at Home.

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Rootes is planning an exhaustive approach to providing an atmosphere that maximizes guest safety.

“We are taking temperatures of each guest at the door. Every guest must sign an affidavit stating that they have no current symptoms or been exposed to anyone with symptoms of COVID-19. All guests must wear a mask upon entry to the restaurant and anytime they leave their table. Of course, social distancing always. We will have a “safety” monitor, who will be cleaning doors and handles, tables etc. We are also using butcher paper on top of the sanitized table that is changed each seating to ensure the table is double secure. As food comes out of the window, we are laying plastic wrap over the plate to ensure that anyone that may cough that is eating in the dining room, that spittle will be caught on the plastic wrap. No straws will be available for the safety of our staff and all glassware will be styrofoam or plastic with lids,” said Rootes.

Individual restaurants will likely be watched closely by patrons venturing out and those experiences documented on social media.

Restaurant operators and patrons are also keeping close tabs on how re-openings in other states are progressing. States such as Texas re-opened on April 3rd but with more stringent capacity limits than Ohio. Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank star Mark Cuban recently made headlines after conducting his own privately-funded secret shopper program of Dallas restaurants that had recently re-opened.

His findings showed only 36% of restaurants had re-opened the first day they were allowed to and that compliance with officially mandated safety measures was extremely low.

A hesitancy to re-open is finding support in Columbus too as Byrne’s Pub announced that they will wait to re-open until the threat from the coronavirus is reduced.

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