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Sunday, Oct 1, 2023

Restaurants Alter Services and Set Up For Reopening

Just last month, San Diego County was given state approval to enter phase 2B of the reopening process, which means restaurant dine-in services could now be reinstated.

In anticipation of their grand reopening, restaurant owners are not just following all Cal/OSHA safety guidelines, including spacing tables, wearing masks and disinfecting surfaces, they are adopting new ways to safely conduct business in the time of COVID.

Dining Out

For Pam Schwartz, co-founder of Ranch 45 in Solana Beach, which reopened on May 21, dining in really means dining out.

“The patio is open for dining,” said Schwartz, who opened Ranch in 2018 and had revenue of $600,000 in 2019. “The dining room will remain set up as a market.”

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During the lockdown, Schwartz made the decision to keep the doors of Ranch 45 open and operate as an essential business, selling Brandt Beef and produce like dairy, eggs, yeast and flour out of her main dining room.

This is the market she speaks of.

Only three customers are allowed in the store at a time, she said, and customers “dining in” will be asked to pick up their food from the counter and take it to their outdoor table to minimize contact.

“For now, the patio is open and a private dining room is available for parties of 10 or less,” Schwartz said. “I don’t forsee opening the main dining room any time soon. We will keep it set up as a market and are working on refining what that means and how it will look in the future.”

QR Code Systems

The Crack Shack Little Italy and The Crack Shack Encinitas are scheduled to reopen June 1. To make ordering seamless and touchless, Michael Rosen, owner, has installed QR code systems at its curbside zones, at the register, at tables and right out front the restaurants, among other key points.

For Rosen, it was imperative to put systems in place that would hopefully draw the crowds.

“Opening restaurants will mean so very much to the local economy,” he said. “While it may take some time to get used to servers wearing masks and social distancing, people go out to restaurants expecting to leave their troubles behind. Some guests are celebrating and other guests are just trying to decompress.”

Rosen, who also owns Juniper and Ivy, located in Little Italy, said this location will open June 3 and will also be a new version of its old self.

Fewer Courses

The dining room will look a bit different, he said, with tables having been removed and the remaining separated to adhere with social distancing guidelines. The Chef’s Table and Chef’s Counter seating have been removed for now as the open kitchen concept will remain as is, except back of house staff will wear masks and gloves.

“The menu will look a bit different, too – for now,” he said. “Rather than a seven to eight course meal, rotating in and out various small plates and bites, guests will likely be looking at fewer courses and larger portions if we need to limit table touches.”

Lionfish, a Clique Hospitality restaurant located inside the Pendry Hotel in downtown San Diego, will reopen on June 2. Andy Masi, founder of Clique, has also implementing QR codes for digital menu options. Additionally, one-time-use disposable paper menus will be available and cleaned, polished silverware wrapped up in linen won’t be dropped on tables until using customers are seated, as an extra precautionary step.

For Masi, no effort is too big in order to get his restaurants up and running.

“We have to get people back to work,” he said. “San Diego is a massive hospitality industry. Its employees are out of work and they need to get back. It will take all precautions possible to prevent uptick in cases. But we can’t hold off the economy much longer. This isn’t a trade-off. It’s about opening back up responsibly.”

Masi, who also owns Serea at the Hotel Del Coronado and a couple of food and beverage places at Sycuan Casino Resort, said as soon as he gets the greenlight to open those up, he will do so.

Temperature Readings

Peter Busalacchi, general manager at Barbusa in Little Italy, has taken a more generic approach; he has opted to take the temperature of not just staff members, but also all guests that walk through the door. For context, before COVID-19, Barbusa hosted an average of 17,000 guests a month. This means, a lot of temperature readings.

Busalacchi is prepared to take on the tall order and is confident his loyal clientele won’t be put off by the precautionary measure.

“I think we can see a little bit of positivity as people are so understanding and still want to come and enjoy our food,” he said. “We are hoping that table times are faster so that we can continue to have the same amount of people. Bar sales will definitely take a hit because people won’t be standing around the bar. But we think the guests sitting at the tables will make up for it.”

Barbusa is scheduled to reopen on June 1.

Healthy and Local

Jessica Waite, co-founder and owner of The Plot, Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub, The Whet Noodle and Pickled Ginger Catering, all located in Oceanside, said part of her mission is to always serve people food that is healthy and local. This, she said, will continue to be a focal point for the operation moving forward.

“We are paying attention to our supply chains: fewer people have touched the food, (which is) locally sourced (and) grown in healthy soil,” she said. “This is what we focus our entire life on, and, for Wrench, especially as a sushi restaurant: feeding people clean food.”

While Waite is certainly looking ahead – The Plot reopened in late May and Wrench will do so on June 4 – a quick trip down memory lane reminds her the San Diego community knows how to come together in a time of need.

This, she said, is what will make food and beverage places like hers succeed.

“The city of Oceanside contracted with us to create meals for local agencies, which was incredibly helpful,” she said. “Our landlord at The Plot asked if she could reduce our rent for a couple of months to help us. People buying thousands of dollars of gift cards – (I feel) so incredibly blessed.

“This has probably been the most impactful two months of my life,” Waite said. “We’re better for it.”


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