Coronavirus

Restaurants Heighten Safety Practices Amid Coronavirus

Restaurants are pivoting quickly to offer take-away food

Restaurants are stepping up their safety practices as the region grapples with community spread of the coronavirus.

Things have changed, and our local restaurants are doing their best to pivot. Fast.

Below are some interviews with restaurant and coffeehouse owners who outlined what steps they took to ramp up best practices before the restriction on social gathering. The new paradigm, for those who can make the switch, involves take-away foods to be picked up curbside. Check in with your favorite restaurants about their curbside pickup options.  I’ll be reviewing a few of these strategies next week. Think about all the food service workers currently struggling. Order out and pick up!

Here’s the new normal from Patrice Boyle, owner of La Posta and Soif: “Both Soif Wine Bar and La Posta closed on the weekend. We expect to reopen at a safe time, which we hope is before too long. Like so many local restaurants, we closed because we care for our families and coworkers, the supplying farmers and producers, and the entire community. The path forward is about helping to flatten the curve.” Boyle underscores the obvious: “As hard as this is on the businesses—and it is—this is really, really hard on employees. So please, keep them in your hearts and be generous with your tips if you find yourself at a food counter or takeout spot. Be generous with delivery drivers. And be generous with everyone else, too. Support local producers.” Boyle plans to begin takeout at La Posta and at Soif, with curbside pickup, “probably on Wednesday.”

Many of our local dining spots are being proactive, getting ahead of patron concerns by implementing new procedures or tightening up ones already in place. Cafe Sparrow in Aptos and Avanti on the Westside now offer their menus for curbside pick-up. Ristorante Italiano offers take-out via DoorDash. Paul Cocking of Gabriella emailed to say that Gabriella Cafe is updating its menu every few days for “to go orders only. You can call us at 457-1677 and we will have it ready for you. Or you can use Uber Eats and DoorDash.” Cocking will make menu orders available “out front here—a bank check would be easiest.” 

Bad Animal in downtown Santa Cruz was among the first to initiate curbside delivery of simple, family-style dinners. It was easy to work their online ordering service, even though the menu was small—beef stew with vegetables and rice (or vegetable stew) and one of the excellent house salads, and a dessert. Even a bottle of wine, and the inclusion of a place to leave a tip. It was thoughtful and appetizing. Looking forward to my first foray.

Here are some best practices for when eating places can reopen for on-site service:

Kelly Sanchez of Kelly’s: “We have always had a strict hygiene policy, but we have certainly increased the vigilance since the news of this COVID-19 virus has been dominating the media.

Employees use tongs, or gloves, or tissue to retrieve any food items.” One interesting part of this issue, Sanchez realizes, involves handling money. “We still must touch money, and of course the common cash register now is a screen shared both by the cashier and the customer. The customer must sign with their finger on the screen if it is a credit card charge. The customer is able to swipe their own charge card so that our employee does not have to touch the card, but still, the shared screen experience is one of the weak spots in cross contamination.” So Kelly’s staff are wiping down the screen with a sanitizing solution between transactions. “This being said, there is still the issue of handing a customer an extra cup or a utensil after touching the screen or money. Our staff is instructed to wash their hands before performing a task that would require touching anything else after touching money or the screen. This of course slows down the ordering process, but not by much.”

“I don’t know how this whole thing will evolve, but I do think it an excellent result that suddenly the public—not just food service and medical-related employees—are discovering that hand-washing is a very good idea.”

Sanchez posts notices regularly “to keep all of our employees constantly reminded and informed about the need to be aware of excellent hygiene and sanitation practices. It is a continuous part of the job of owning and operating a food service establishment, even without a new threat. The most important thing is that if anyone is sick that they stay home, whether it is an employee or a customer. All in all, we are doing everything we can.”

John N. Bilanko of Iveta: “Our position is to not panic or overreact when so little is known about the extent or severity of the virus. Iveta continues to monitor the situation, and will take “whatever actions are recommended by public health authorities.” Iveta reduced its opening hours last week to 8am – 1pm. Now for pick-up only.

Louisa Beers of Gayle’s Bakery listed focus areas as part of prevention awareness. These measure include reminding staff not to come to work if sick and directing managers to be actively looking for symptoms. “All high touch areas are disinfected hourly, and hand sanitizers and tissues are placed in key locations.” Beers underscores all the sanitation practices with this proviso: “We are meeting several times a day to update these practices as information becomes available.”

Patrice Boyle on best practices for when the restaurants can reopen: “We are drilling the staff about hand-washing and their own health. We are adding sick days to everyone’s existing paid time off, so they feel less pressure to come to work if they don’t feel well. We are enhancing our surface cleaning/disinfecting practices with more frequent cleanings (mid-shift wiping the doors, for example). We’ve added hand sanitizing dispensers to the restrooms, retail shop and server areas.” Boyle says her chefs and managers are “as serious about this as I am. At Soif, the restroom lavs have a motion sensor faucet and towel dispenser, at la Posta, the plumber is supposed to be in this week to install a new faucet. And, we’re thinking about other new ways to stay clean and safe. And everyone washes their hands all the time!” Boyle says she’s “trying to put a delivery/takeout program together in the event peeps don’t want to venture out. On the whole, though, my restaurants already operate on the premise that health and safety are the biggest issue, so, we’re just dialing everything up.” Boyle also notes that “the way this seems to be rolling out highlights the need for healthcare for all, and mandates for better sick-leave policies.”


Coronavirus Coverage

For continuing in-depth coverage of the new coronavirus and its effects locally, visit goodtimes.sc/category/santa-cruz-news/coronavirus.

To learn about action you can take now, whether you’re seeking assistance or want to find ways of supporting the community, visit goodtimes.sc/santa-cruz-coronavirus-resources.

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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