Here are some of the top stories we’re following for Thursday March 12, 2020.
Restaurant patrons at Taverna Rustic Italian off Silverside Road can still get Parmesan cheese grated over pasta dishes.
But don’t expect the wait staff to do the cheese shaving at the tables of the Brandywine Hundred restaurant.
Dishes are being finished in the kitchen by staffers wearing gloves, a restaurant manager told two Delaware Online/News Journal reporters who ate there Wednesday.
The staff also is regularly wiping down frequently touched surfaces at the eatery that opened last year.
Delaware restaurant owners have stepped up cleaning policies and addressing food safety issues to ensure patrons and staff have an added layer of protection against the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The moves were already taking place before a University of Delaware faculty member on Wednesday became the first Delawarean to test positive for coronavirus. On Thursday, The Delaware Division of Public Health announced three additional positive cases of coronavirus in the state.
All day Thursday, restaurant owners throughout the state posted health procedure guidelines on their Facebook pages and repeated them in news releases.
More: Stores slammed over fears of coronavirus
Carl Georigi, owner of the Platinum Dining Group that includes two Taverna restaurants, Capers & Lemons, RedFire Grill and Eclipse Bistro, said there has been “an immediate increase in vigilance in practices we’re already done.”
He said staff members every 20 minutes are washing hands and cleaning doors.
“We’re making sure everyone in the kitchen has gloves on,” he said. “It’s forced us to look at every single part of service.”
Georigi said letters will soon be posted on the doors of all the restaurant telling patrons that the hospitality group is “being safe and smart.”
Georigi said there hasn’t been an increase in take-out orders, but “this weekend is going to be interesting. The last 24 hours have been dramatic. It’s gotten real.”
The Ashby Hospitality Group, which runs McGlynn’s Pubs in Pike Creek, Peoples Plaza and Dover, Deer Park Tavern in Newark and Cantwell’s Tavern in Odessa, posted a statement on Thursday.
It read that staff twice daily were sanitizing frequently touched objects such as doorknobs, door handles, computer screens and credit card readers.
“The health of our guests and employees have always been a top priority,” read the Facebook post.
Xavier Teixido, who owns Harry’s Savoy Grill in Brandywine Hundred and Kid Shelleen’s in Wilmington, said employees at his restaurants are “obsessively re-enforcing existing policies.”
He said managers are making sure there is “hand-washing on arrival to work and after any contact.”
They are cleaning and sanitizing menus, pens, check presenters, table top items, door handles, touch screens, phones and “anything that someone can in contact with,” Teixido said.
Most importantly, Teixido said, he does not want anyone coming to work sick “or if anyone in the household is sick or has a fever.
“These are standard policy for us, also each restaurant has all managers and chefs ServSafe certified,” he said.
ServSafe is a food and beverage safety training and certificate program administered by the U.S. National Restaurant Association.
The program is accredited by the American National Standards Institute and the Conference for Food Protection. Sanitation certification is required by most restaurants as a basic credential for their management staff.
More: Coronavirus: Quick tips on how to prepare in case of emergency
Teixido said at Harry’s off Naamans Road and Kid Shelleen’s in Trolley Square, every employee – from the host greeting customers to the ware washer in the kitchen – has completed a FoodHandler food safety course.
It is considered particularly strong in cleaning and sanitation practices.
Teixido also is asking delivery drivers to wash their hands frequently and “hopefully our guests are, too.”
Teixido said “all of these protocols are reviewed every meal period.”
Donny Merrill, chef/owner of Skipjack restaurant in Newark, said in addition to following cleanliness rules according to ServSafe, his staff is putting extra disinfectant on menus, doorways “and anything touched.”
“I am also having our professional cleaners cover the whole place with a virus killing spray. It is supposed to be 99.9 percent [effective] against coronavirus, influenza and most viruses. All our cleaning products are approved,” said Merrill, whose restaurant is located in the Shoppes of Louviers at 401 Louviers Drive.
At Cajun Kate’s on Philadelphia Pike, owners Don Applebaum and wife Kate are paying “extra attention to our bathroom facilities.”
He said there are wipes, hand sanitizer and more in the restrooms.
Applebaum said they now using single-use cups instead of communal squeeze bottles for condiments and sauce.
He said they also are considering switching to sealed plastic utensil packs and possibly soon offering delivery and curbside pick-up.
The restaurant owner urges customers to stay calm.
“Trust the professionals, we’ve been properly trained,” he said.
Some food and drink businesses have announced other changes.
Wilmington Brew Works off Miller Road said it has replaced all utensils with plastic wrapped utensils, moved a water station to an area closer to the bar and will not use garnishes in drinks for the near future.
Owners said they also “asking that all patrons bus their own tables as much as possible.”
Some restaurants have had to cancel events. Bryan and Andrea Sikora, the owners of La Fia Bistro in Wilmington, were planning on hosting a dinner March 16 at the James Beard House in New York City.
“However, given the current situation, we will be canceling this dinner and rescheduling,” they wrote on their Facebook page.
The couple said some of the dishes they were planning to do at the James Beard dinner will be available at the 421 N. Market St. restaurant this weekend.
The dishes on the Beard menu included Beef Cheek with Mole Poblano, Carolina Gold Rice Grits, Ramp Salsa Verde and Cherry Bomb Radish, and Koji-Cured Hamachi with Spruce Dashi, Hakurei Turnips, Toasted Benne Seeds, Yuzu and Smoked Duck Fat.
The Delaware Restaurant Association said it is receiving information from the state Department of Health’s Office of Food Protection that they plan to share on their Facebook page and website.
“One of the big things establishments can do is make sure their cleaning products are approved to effectively combat the spread,” said Karen Stauffer, director of communications.
She said a good list to follow is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Registered Antimicrobial Products for Use Against Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the Cause of COVID-19.
The restaurant industry is being hard hit in states like Washington, which has recorded at least 30 deaths from the virus.
Tom Douglas, who grew up in Newark and graduated from St. Mark’s High School, now runs 13 full-service restaurants, an event space, ballroom and a cooking school in the Seattle area.
Douglas, considered one of the most respected restaurateurs in the industry, comes back to Delaware to visit family members who still live in the area. He started his restaurant career in the kitchen at the Hotel du Pont.
On March 9, Douglas posted a video on his Tom Douglas Restaurants Facebook page saying “it’s been a tough pill to swallow watching Seattle — and the surrounding area — go through the trauma of Covid-19 and its impact on our community. “
Said Douglas: “I really love this town. We are a strong, resilient city, but this crisis is going to take every one of us to stay vigilant for our neighbors and care for the underserved.”
Douglas announced Wednesday all of his restaurants except a bakery would temporarily close beginning March 15 for 8 to 12 weeks.
According to The Seattle Times, sales at Douglas’ restaurants have declined up to 90% since the coronavirus outbreak.
Contact Patricia Talorico at or [email protected] and on Twitter @pattytalorico
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