Although only a few confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported in Kansas and Missouri, local restaurants and service industry businesses are taking extra measures to protect employees and guests. Their aim is to continue operating in a safe environment and serve guests who want to dine out or order delivery.
During this uncertain time, small business owners also underscored the importance of ongoing patronage from customers. Buying gift certificates and gift cards (online, if possible) for later use and generous tipping are helpful actions. The economic livelihood of the business, their employees and the local economy relies on that public support.
The Ship co-owner Bob Asher urges guests to “continue supporting your neighborhood small businesses during these stressful times. They need your support.” That's a sentiment echoed by Screenland Theatres and Tapcade co-founder Adam Roberts, who plans to visit many local businesses to show support. “Many businesses will feel this impact,” he says. “It will have a tremendous ripple through the service industry for those who rely on our tips. Businesses will have to adjust staffing to match the customers coming in, which also hurts our local economy.”
Extra Measures and Precautions
Throughout the Kansas City area, restaurateurs and business owners are taking to social media to let customers know about the extra steps they're taking. Anita Moore, chef-owner of Soirée Steak & Oyster House, posted an announcement on Facebook to reassure customers.
“Our employees depend on a paycheck,” Moore says. “Hopefully, by taking these extra measures we can continue to stay open and they can continue to get paid.”
Beth Barden of Succotash and her team have also enhanced cleaning methods and established other safeguards. Her focus is to protect guests and employees, and to be vigilant about potential risk of spreading the virus. “As part of the community, we try to protect the most vulnerable people in our community,” Barden says.
Succotash has stocked up on cleaning supplies, gloves and other staples. Door handles, tables, chair backs and other surfaces are thoroughly cleaned often. The restaurant also switched to single-service packaging for sugar, cream and other food items. Napkin holders and other handheld items have been removed from tables. Hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap is used throughout the restaurant. Paper towel holders have been replaced so they may be operated with an elbow instead of hands. Barden is considering use of disposable cups. Employees do not use their phones at work unless on a break and they wash hands directly afterward.
“Silverware is triple-washed by dishwasher using a three-part sanitizer system,” Barden says. “Sets of silverware are packaged with napkins in sealed plastic bags by gloved employees. After one use, the bags are discarded.”
Barden has stocked dry groceries and staples for her staff, if employees become ill for any reason. Barden also works with employees to deduct the cost of doctor visits over multiple paychecks and help lessen the financial burden. Advances are given in some cases. Employees who feel sick are sent home and may not return to work until they present a medical release. Employees may use sterile, single-use disposable thermometers “if they are feeling under the weather and need to check their temperature.”
Succotash does not currently use delivery services, but Barden says the restaurant is evaluating its options and may change practices as things shift. “We’re remaining calm and proactive, reading official guidelines and using the best possible practices,” she says. “We’ve put signs up in the restaurant to let people know what we’re doing. It’s not only protecting yourself, but also thinking about the community and encouraging people to keep a level head.”
Julep owners Keely and Beau Williams and employees are also taking extra precautions.
The Ship also posted a public statement to address concerns.
Similarly, Celina Tio, chef-owner of The Belfry and Collection Event Space, says, “I’ve removed bar stools so they are more spaced out. We will hand out wipes to guests so they can do any additional wiping of their area in addition to us sanitizing it. Also, because we are smaller, our staff is smaller. There are only a few people on staff with whom you’d come in contact. We are being as diligent as possible to be even more cautious than usual with sanitization.”
John Couture of Bier Station and his team continue to maintain a clean disinfected workplace, including frequent hand washing. Tables and other surfaces are cleaned often. Popular board games have been stored away. “We’re doing our best to think through practices and put extra effort into all we do,” Couture says.
The disruption affects businesses in various ways. “It isn’t hitting all businesses yet,” Couture says. “Others beyond travel and tourism will be hit more gradually. We’re trying to take care of staff and bring them in for extra cleaning. It’s a hard time when money isn’t coming in. There’s no end in sight. It is frustrating. It’s also heartening to see how Kansas City will respond. It shows how people will pull together. It will help businesses and individuals get through this.”
At Martin City Brewing Co., dedicated staff work on constant cleaning and sanitization, and employees are prepped daily on hand-washing and other cleaning protocols. Additionally, all items have been removed from tables except menus. “Cheese and pepper are now only available in packets. Chile oil, ketchup and mustard are available by request,” Matthew Moore, who owns the business with Chancie Moore, says. “We wipe down these containers when the table is cleaned.”
Employees experiencing any sign of fever or sickness stay home for at least two weeks. “No layoffs have taken place,” Moore says. “Our facilities have remained relatively busy and we had an unbelievable January and February. We think it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Chancie and I are preparing for this seriously.”
Bread & Butter Concepts CEO Alan Gaylin oversees operations for multiple restaurants including Stock Hill, Gram & Dun, Cherry Hall and Urban Table. The restaurant group has enacted steps to support its employees. Gaylin says, “Our priority at Bread & Butter Concepts is two-fold: Our ongoing commitment to health and safety standards, and taking care of our team. In an effort to make up for reduced hours and lost wages over the next few weeks, we’ve committed to giving back 5 percent of all food and beverage sales and 20 percent of all gift card sales directly to our staff.”
“Public safety and food safety is always a top priority for us at Screenland and Tapcade,” says co-founder Adam Roberts. “We have mandated additional sanitizing of surfaces that customers interact with as often as possible. We have retrained our staff in proper hand washing and changing protective gloves more frequently.”
In addition to food and bar operations, Roberts is concerned about the future of his movie theaters as an essential part of both businesses. “I am a small business owner who relies on the public spending money for our sustainability. I’m worried,” Roberts says. “The cost of running a theater is extraordinary. The bills keep coming in regardless of turnout. As the last locally-owned theater in Kansas City, we are nervous about our future. Like many service-based small businesses, we don’t have stockpiles of reserve funds. We rely on steady traffic to keep our business healthy.”
Leeway Franks and Butcher in Lawrence, Kansas, has enhanced cleaning procedures at the butcher shop and restaurant “with the knowledge that COVID-19 can stay on unwashed surfaces for up to two weeks.”
The Lawrence Restaurant Association is holding an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss this issue as a group. “Business appears to be down across the board," co-owner K. Meisel says. "Many restaurants do not have the ability to offer delivery or carryout and may be impacted more distinctly than others.”
Lidia’s Kansas City recently implemented new delivery options. Delivering within a 10-mile radius, Lidia’s offers several packages for lunch and dinner, such as salad, pasta and choice of entree. Guests may call the restaurant or order online. An abbreviated portion of the entire menu is also available on Postmates and Doordash.
Colby and Megan Garrelts of Rye and Bluestem sent a public email message that discusses safeguards put in place. The chef-owners also stated: “It is important that we all work together during this challenging time and support one another. Our restaurants thrive on the relationships we have built with our guests and the many occasions and celebrations that surround our tables daily. We look forward to continual hospitality and the new spring season that will soon grace our menus.”
Similarly, an email from chef Michael and Nancy Smith of Farina and Extra Virgin listed measures taken, and also offered gratitude to guests: “We can’t begin to express our gratitude for you, our loyal guests. You support local, enthusiastically. People are the cornerstone of Farina — you, as our guests, and the team that takes great pleasure in serving you.”