Coronavirus food prep

St. Louis restaurants are taking extra precautions in the wake of the coronavirus. 

If you dine at Pastaria this week, you might notice something a little out of the ordinary: The caddy of olive oil and Parmesan, traditionally available on each table for sharing, is missing, available by request only. It's just one step the restaurant is taking amid growing nationwide concerns about the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

And while there has only been one confirmed case of the virus in the St. Louis area, as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, many local restaurants like Pastaria are preparing to not only keep patrons safe, but to make them feel safer.

Gerard Craft, owner of the Niche Food Group, which includes Pastaria, among others, says that shared items like olive oil and salt and pepper have been removed from tables and are now available by request in individual packaging. University City's Taco Buddha announced via email on Thursday a series of measures including new protocols for handling cash, additional sanitation with every table turn and new packaging for its salsas, which will be available in 1-ounce prepackaged containers as opposed to shared bottles. 

Craft also says that along with ramping up routine cleaning procedures, his restaurants are also cross-training employees to attempt to stay well-staffed during times where workers may need to stay home due to illness. 

View this post on Instagram

Beloved friends and guests, Obviously, we are all experiencing the repercussions of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Along with many of our fellow local restaurants, we want to keep you updated on the ways we are working to protect our guests and our staff. We want to reassure you that, along with our standard vigilant efforts, we are further expanding upon them. All of our restaurants are diligently following CDC guidelines. Everything from tables, chairs, condiment bottles, service areas, iPads, credit card readers, handles, and bathrooms are being cleaned and wiped multiple times per hour with the recommended bleach solutions. We also have hand sanitizers available for all guests and employees at all times. Regular handwashing is already an essential task in restaurants, and we are vigorously increasing that frequency. Our commitment to our staff’s safety is just as important as our customers’. Our employees are keenly aware of our policies regarding sick days, and we are checking in with them daily to ensure they are well. The Mai Lee and Nudo House teams are more than just staff, we are a family. We encourage those who are able to continue to support local restaurants and businesses, as this industry will be one of the hardest hit by this situation. Dine in, carryout, or find us on Postmates. Please let us know if we can do anything more to make your dining experience as safe (and delicious) as possible. St. Louis is vibrant food and drink community and we all need your support to get through this together!!! - Sending well wishes to everyone, Mai Lee and the #NudoSquad 🍜💛 - *** You can also catch Chef @cladley tonight on @fox2now discussing these efforts and more!!! We are here for you #STL!!!

A post shared by Nudo House STL (@nudohousestl) on

On Facebook, Five Star Burgers announced that the restaurant group is taking additional measures when it comes to sanitation, and that they have also contracted with Postmates to give customers a $3 discount on delivery if they would rather enjoy burgers from home. 

Switching to more delivery and pickup options seems to be a popular solution. Kingside Diner announced via email on Wednesday that it would be instituting a curbside-pickup service for those who feel more comfortable taking food to go than eating in the restaurant. Likewise, restaurants ranging from Lion's Choice to Russell's on Macklind to Zoë Robinson's Bar Les Freres, I Fratellini and Billie-Jean are increasing their options for delivery and takeout. Downtown and Central West End delivery service Food Pedaler is actually offering contactless delivery for those who want to take an even higher level of caution; by leaving a note on your order and paying ahead, a delivery person will leave your food outside of your door to get once they take off. 

Many upcoming events in St. Louis – particularly food and beverage tastings like Ian Froeb's Great Taste on March 18 and Schlafly Beer's Stout & Oyster Festival on March 20-21 – have been cancelled or postponed out of an abundance of caution. On Thursday, the Tower Grove Farmers Market announced that the rest of its indoor Saturday markets at Koken Art Factory would be cancelled through the end of the year. As of right now, the spring market is expected to resume as planned. 

Craft says that if you are looking to support your favorites bars and restaurants during this time, the obvious answer is to patronize the restaurants and order takeout or delivery if possible. Buying non-food items, like merchandise or gift certificates for future use, is also a great way to put your money where your mouth is. Sister restaurants Retreat Gastropub and Yellowbelly are even offering 10 percent off all gift cards sales over $50 purchased for a later date.

Craft is also leading by example; he says that he is also trying to support his favorite spots in town in the meantime. 

"It's a difficult time for everybody," he says. 

Editor's Note: This post has been updated with additional information about how restaurants are responding to coronavirus.