By Noah Parks
Mother Nature makes everything seem preordained, perfect, one might say “natural”. How are we going to do it? Our industry has been “rebuilding” for two of our busiest seasons: Graduation/Spring, and Wedding/Summer. Now, how do you take a newly adapted outdoor focused hospitality industry and adjust them for the winter season? We cannot hibernate, many cannot afford to operate even with full patios or backyard dining. HMG+ has been proactive in putting together it’s own guide to operating safely during events and during service indoors. With a wide array of input they’ve created a guide for keeping employees and guests safe. It’s a living document that will, like nature, adapt to new circumstances and continue to keep everyone as safe as possible. Click here to receive your COVID Guide!
Honestly there aren’t a lot of answers to apply broadly to this issue of how do we transition from almost exclusively outdoor dining to indoor (where possible). However, there are some folks taking action or being forced to shut down in the face of inaction.
Let’s take a look at a state that has flattened the curve and took steps to open the economy: Maryland. The first state to open up businesses like indoor dining, entertainment venues, and most outdoor venues (all with 50% capacity restriction). Reopening guidelines have been unpredictable there but compliance with Covid-19 prevention guidelines has been strong. Maryland is colloquially called “America in miniature”. If this is true then all eyes are on Maryland and their metro areas as we begin to prepare for lower temperatures. With most of the industry now fighting to be the most “COVID Ready” and with almost every employee being drilled on CDC, state, and local guidelines, our readiness is at a peak. “All Maryland businesses will be able to open,” Maryland Governor, Larry Hogan says. But, what about when the temperatures dip?
In NYC and other major Northeast hubs restaurants that have invested in impromptu outdoor dining set ups are now investing again: keeping their outdoor operations comfortable. This means adding blankets, heating lamps or towers, and windguards. A local spot on my block, Pablitos on 23rd and 5th Avenue in Brooklyn (in case you’re hungry), made the move to expand their outdoor operation but with their sales down 70% they cannot afford to enhance that space for colder weather. They were wary to spend on the outdoor space that was made available to restaurants because it came so suddenly. They’re afraid the city or state could just as quickly take away that space. They are optimistic that just as they made the first parking space in front of the business available, that they will approve indoor dining following CDC, State and local guidelines. So when will the new, new, new normal begin?
Usually I like to put a button on a topic but, honestly, we’re just going to have to take it one day at a time, doing everything we can today and leave the results up to tomorrow. I believe the hospitality industry will take COVID-19 seriously, like HMG+, enacting company rules and training employees to work with respect for themselves, their guests, and this deadly virus. Whether it’s on the “Best Coast” or here on the “Beast Coast”, this fall and winter will be one to work together toward the common goal: to safely enjoy each other’s company during the daily or once in a lifetime moments. It will also be a glorious time to have a beard, dress in flannel, and enjoy your Pumpkin Spice outside. Whether we get it right or not, the leaves will turn, the winds will blow, the snow will fall. If we can put aside our differences in these next vital months, then mother nature will take care of the rest.