District Restaurant News | Fall 2020

Page 15

noted, “Two managers we were counting on to help open Tabla actually quit, one the week before we opened and the other just this week. One left the hospitality industry altogether, and the other is joining the Army.” However, Nelms said the second manager was instrumental in helping prepare for the opening. At Pizzeria Paradiso, Gresser says staff was reduced to 12 percent of pre-pandemic levels in March, but has now more than doubled to 25 percent. As restaurants operate under ongoing restrictions, and consumers shift preferences to takeout, managing labor becomes complex because very few staff are needed for lower volumes. If a restaurant cannot operate a robust dining room, labor will be cut. At the pizza chain, management has projected operating at 50 percent of pre-pandemic sales levels. What has been easier is the takeout and delivery game. Most of Tabla’s food is conducive to takeout, and packaging has been straightforward. Tabla expanded to an all-day menu with khachapuris headlining breakfast. Tabla is featuring Imeruli – cheese inside; Megruli, with cheese inside and on top; Guruli (which is served before 3 pm only), with hard-boiled eggs, cheese, and fresh herbs in a crescent-shape, and Ajaruli, with egg stirred into the cheese. The Parkview neighborhood restaurant’s menu is now heavily khachapuri-based. The traditional Georgian bread filled with cheese travels well in pizza boxes. “Other dishes are also pretty straightforward to package, so we have not had too many problems with that. We did have to put a little oil in the bottom of the box with the khinkali (soup dumplings) to prevent them from sticking. But otherwise it’s been pretty simple.”

Safety and cleanliness In the Metropolitan Washington Region, restaurateurs have been enhancing safety protocols in order to honor their commitment to protect customers and employees. A majority of experts and the National Restaurant Association have advocated for strict adherence to safety. Putting that message first encourages consumers to consider dining out. In fact, a

recent marketing campaign by the National Restaurant Association, including new ads, urges consumers to return to “the sounds of restaurants” (https://youtu.be/3Jsfm9rD32M). In addition, restaurants now have the opportunity to certify their adherence to safety through ServSafeDining.org. The Association has provided increased resources and guidance: there are myriad resources on operating restaurants safely on the Association’s website, restaurant.org. As National Safety Month, September is the ideal time to augment the industry’s participation in safety training, resources and re-education. Local restaurant operators understand that instilling confidence is critical during the pandemic. “We immediately embraced the science of safety including masks, gloves, handwashing, distancing as much as possible, frequent sanitizing of surfaces, temperature checks, time off if symptoms arise, testing if exposed,” says Pizzeria Paradiso’s Gresser. “(We have been) Instilling the idea that personal safety is the primary concern of the restaurant and empowering staff members to make thoughtful decisions and take action to keep everyone safe.” At Tabla, an uncommon design element has revealed a safety advantage. While the restaurant has placed signage and labeled spacing with markers on the floor, the unusual doors have become a focal point of comfort for customers: “The best thing about the Tabla space from the health and safety perspective is the large roll-up garage doors,” observes Nelms. “They make it feel like you’re outside even if you’re inside with plenty of fresh air and sunshine.”

Recommended Resources Re-opening guidance: https://restaurant.org/ manage-my-restaurant/business-operations/ covid19/recovery ServSafe: https://restaurant.org/managemy-restaurant/business-operations/covid19/ recovery Local industry updates and advocacy by RAMW: https://www.ramw.org/blog District Restaurant News 15