While many restaurants and bars are reopening ever-so-slowly and carefully, there are some that are concerned the coronavirus is just getting started.
“Who knows how long this is going to last,” said Ron Burns, chef at the new business Bistro Delivery. “This is going to change the environment. I’m just trying to adapt and adjust.”
Restaurants around Juneau are instituting new sets of best practices that change the way their kitchens operate. The kitchen is the engine of any restaurant, and some of those changes have taken some getting used to.
“We’ve made our stations further apart so I can have two people on. They have families too. I’m doing everything I can to keep everyone safe,” said Venietia Santana, owner of V’s Cellar Door. “I am nothing without my staff. If they get sick, we’re done, we’re toast.”
Santana has taken measures, including instituting more verbal communication and separating the front-of-house and back-of-house employees. She’s not the only one who’s made adjustments.
“I have a food truck parked outside. It’s the perfect environment for COVID,” said Dave McCasland, owner of Deckhand Dave’s, in a phone interview. “We have six tables outside and they’re far apart anyway.”
Burns echoed Santana’s sentiment. He’s restructured his operations to completely separate the preparation and delivery sides of his business.
“I have a mask on, gloves. I cook the food, package it, seal it. I don’t touch money, I don’t touch cards,” Burns said. “Right now it’s a closed kitchen, a closed restaurant. I’ll change the menu in a few weeks. Once I get past a few hurdles. We’ll see where it goes.”
Burns said he’s worked with supplies and vendors to ensure his food is sealed from the point it’s plucked off the plant to the kitchen for maximum safety.
“I’m working with food services right now to make sure everything is wrapped so a customer can be sure that their food is non-contact,” Burns said. “Making sure the guys who pick it are packaging it. It’s a little challenge but I think it’s going to work.”
Santana reflected that the high priority on safety has caused some differences in their purchasing patterns.
“You have to invest more in gloves than we did before,” Santana said. “It’s constant. Every hour, wiping every service. Keeping to CDC standards. Constant bleach and water. You’re wiping down the sink, all the walls, the nozzles on the faucets. We’ve got three sets of masks for each staff member. They get washed every night.”
Burns said that keeping his process smooth and safe has been the biggest adjustment.
“The challenge is always having your mask on, always having your gloves on. You always have to be aware. It’s being triple-mindful of health. The packaging, the health, all those things matter,” Burns said. “You have to slow yourself down a little bit to make sure everything is correct.”
Burns says he’s got plans to improve and continue to evolve as things move forward. With no indication of how long the coronavirus crisis will last, he plans to take his no-contact kitchen as far as it’ll go.
“That healthy fear is going to be there for a very long time. There’s still going to be a lot of fear in this town. We’ll be keeping this going,” Santana said. “Everybody’s conscientious of everyone’s space. You know everyone is doing the best they can to maintain that distance.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or email@example.com.