Business owners work with SFC officials on restaurant protocols – Daily Journal Online

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Chip and Debbie Peterson, owners of three restaurants in Farmington, are assisting the county with policies for reopening restaurants in the area.


Mark Marberry



Local business owners Chip and Debbie Peterson are working with St. Francois County Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher and Rose Mier, environmental public health specialist with the county health center, on protocols for restaurants to use when looking at potentially reopening next week when the state’s stay-at-home order is expected to be lifted.

The owners of Steak ‘n Shake, CiCi’s Pizza and Qdoba restaurants in Farmington, Chip Peterson stressed that he and Debbie are not authorities on this situation. However, they have the three large franchise companies for resources on the development of practices for restaurant reopenings.

“Debbie is on conference calls almost all day long, she is more on taking care of the restaurants than I am, she has a pulse on all this,” he said. “They have experts that talk about everything from SBA loans to the virus to safety precautions. We just try to take best practices.

“As Harold and I started talking, I said I will tell you what we had done before they shut the restaurants down, where we see us being after we open back up, and if it’s in the form of the right protocol. Unfortunately, some of the small restaurants don’t have that ability to gain that information, and they want to do everything right. The last thing they want to do is get people sick and shut themselves down, because they would never be able to reopen.

“I told Harold that we will put together what we did. Debbie’s got that on a paper that she shared with Harold. Every restaurant is a little bit different. They’ve all got their little complex situation with seating and delivery method, whatever it is. It’s got to be tweaked for everybody.”

Peterson is concerned about hearing that nationwide, about 20% of restaurants will not reopen. Along with the loss of jobs and tax revenue generated, it will be a great loss to communities in less obvious ways.

“Most of those are going to be small, specialty restaurants that we like to go to,” he said. “The last thing I want to do is have less competition. I want everybody to survive this. These little restaurants that hire everybody, put money back into the community, and sponsor ballteams, that’s the heart of a community. We’ve got a lot of people eating in our restaurant once or twice a day. That’s what they do. It’s part of their social life.

“I just want to make sure that we accomplish something good, we have to keep everybody safe for our community to survive this thing and hopefully everybody will be very tolerant, because for the restaurants to do this right, it’s going to be an inconvenience for everybody. I think they are going to be receptive and understanding, the waitresses are going to be doing twice as much stuff they normally do to keep everybody safe.”

According to Peterson, with the social distancing and the additional sanitation required, restaurant capacity will be down dramatically for some time. He explained some details of what they are going to be doing differently at Steak ‘n Shake.

“As we open back up and you walk in our restaurant, you’re going to see we’re going to have roughly half the tables opened,” he said. “We are going to do no more than four seating except for a couple of tables that we accommodate families. If you come with a big party, you’re just going to have to split up. I think everybody will understand that.

“We are going to ask one member of every party to come in the restaurant to wait, so we don’t have big groups. At Steak ‘n Shake we have several points of service, we are going to change that, we are going to limit every contact we can. You come in and get seated, they are going to take your order on the other side of a little safety table. They will bring your order on a tray, and you take your food off the tray so that there’s no contact, there’s no waitresses leaning over your table and brushing against somebody.”

The process continues even after the customer leaves the restaurant. Peterson listed several procedures that will be completed as clean up after a meal.

“When you get done and leave the restaurant, that’s going to all be taken off, and everything gets wiped down with sanitizer,” he said. “The seats, tables, any condiments—the condiments are only available on request.”

Peterson further explained how the employees will be doing their normal tasks differently and with more detail to cleanliness and sanitation.

“Everybody preparing foods is going to have masks,” he said. “Gloves where needed. Gloves are scary. People wear gloves, they’re checking out with money, they’re scratching their head, then they are going back to preparing food, getting raw food. There has to be a very strict protocol there.

“The waitresses are going to be sanitizing and washing their hands everytime they go in and out of the waitress station. We are going to have extra people at the door, wiping down handles. We are going to have two register people most of the time that are only there to take care of checking out and checking in, those people aren’t going to the tables or preparing food. We will have somebody at the bathroom all the time, trying to constantly wipe down everything. We will do this until we get through this period of time and then slowly evolve into the next stage of this thing.”

Peterson emphasized that the building has undergone extensive cleaning during the shutdown.

“During our downtime, we have just cleaned and cleaned,” he said. “We’ve replaced broken tiles, we’ve got a guy coming in and redoing the vinyl. Cleaned the ceiling tiles, tried to use that downtime to do those things that are hard to get to and get done, and I think most people have been.”

Peterson summarized the problem the three problems that the restaurant industry is facing during the current crisis.

“You have the financial aspect of it, which is horrible for everybody,” he said. “We have the virus itself, which is horrible, and we have to handle that, and do everything right to keep that spread down and at the same time not destroy our economy.

“The third part of that is the perception. People’s perspective is what they expect to see when they walk into a restaurant or a retail store. The scent of 2020 is going to be chlorine. When I go into a restaurant, I want to smell it.”

Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at [email protected]

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