WEST BEND — As the weather warms up, area restaurants with patios are finding that customers prefer to eat outside. Inside, establishments are stepping up sanitation and safety protocols while customers stay receptive to safety measures.
“We’ve seen an increased use in our outdoor dining area. People seem to be adhering to social distancing principles and using open air areas of the restaurant and the drive-thru in increased capacity,” said Jeff Kern, owner of Jumbo’s Frozen Custard, 1014 South Main St.
Unless the weather is hot, many customers prefer dining outside. He does not expect that to change for some time.
Curbside pickup has dropped significantly, especially for breakfasts. During the closure, breakfast was a popular time for curbside pickup.
The restaurant has also enacted different safety protocols, like requiring servers to wear masks or face shields and requesting that vendors wear masks. Staff is taking extra time to wipe down doorknobs, clean bathrooms and sanitize salt and pepper shakers.
“We had really high cleanliness standards to begin with, so this was a higher frequency of what we had been doing previously,” said Ford.
Hand sanitizer is provided and the restaurant is utilizing disposable products.
The Braising Pan has given customers an option when it comes to social distancing. One part of the restaurant is sectioned off to maintain distance. Another part allows guests to sit in a larger groups.
Since The Braising Pan has a larger patio, Ford said social distancing happened naturally in that area.
They have extended the waiting area and ask guests to wait outside or down the hallway.
The staff attempts to sanitize all the tables, chairs and stools after a customer leaves and maintain social distancing. They have maintained the same hours throughout the pandemic.
He advises that people who are sick should stay home, but staff is trying to make the restaurant as safe as possible. They are also offering takeout options.
“We’re trying to be respectful of everybody’s personal space and to do the best we can to make sure people are safe,” said Kern.
Riverside Brewery & Restaurant, 255 South Main St., took advantage of the closure to apply a fresh coat of paint and perform maintenance work. The restaurant officially opened its dining room during the first week of June.
General Manager Teri Benz said customers were excited and grateful to dine inside the restaurant.
“I think everybody was looking for something to do,” she said.
While customers are excited to eat inside, many customers opted for outdoor dining. The restaurant has recently expanded its patio.
“The patio on a nice day is always full. I think they feel safer being outside,” said Benz.
Some tables in the restaurant have been removed so customers can maintain social distance. Customers are provided disposable menus and hand sanitizer. Staff wear face masks during any customer contact and follow sanitary and cleanliness protocols.
“It’s been pretty steady. We’re still keeping it to 65 to 70 percent capacity and our curbside is still flourishing,” said Benz. “There still are a lot of people who would prefer to be safe and stay distanced. We’re glad we can offer that.”
Fridays have been the restaurant’s busiest day for pickup for the weekly fish fry, even before the COVID19 pandemic. Since the dining room opened, the number of curbside pickups has gone down slightly.
The restaurant is also continuing the daily family meal specials for curbside or delivery, which are portioned to feed four people.
“When the weather is nice out, I feel that they’re more comfortable dining outside than inside,” said Heather Ford, owner of The Braising Pan, 1100 North Main St. “The patio gets filled up before the dining area does inside.”
The Braising Pan has adjusted operating hours from before the coronavirus.
“When we are open, our customers have been very receptive of dining with us,” she said.