Longtime restaurateur, Alan Meinster, explains what he envisions dining to be like in a post-Covid-19 world.
ALLENHURST, NJ: For some restaurateurs, business was affected long before the government mandated closures. Owner and operator of Marsilio’s Kitchen in Ewing, NJ and Rossi’s Bar & Grill in Hamilton, NJ, Alan Meinster made the decision to close his restaurants on Saturday, March 14th; days before all New Jersey restaurants were ordered to shut their doors to patrons. “We can’t provide a safe atmosphere right now,” said Meinster. “The safest thing to do for our customers our staff, ourselves is to close.” The owners of the decades-old restaurants now have a new challenge to face: how to continue serving their loyal customers when both businesses reopen.
The two landmark restaurants have been known as local hotspots in Mercer County for decades; Marsilio’s Kitchen serving customers for the past 35 years, and Rossi’s Bar & Grill, which he co-owns with Mike Rossi, first opened as a speakeasy in 1933. But in a post-Covid-19 world, Meinster is still unsure how his customers will adapt to a dining experience consisting of less elbow-to-elbow seating and more social distancing. “We’re not putting together a new concept yet,” said Meinster. “Because the restaurants have been around awhile, when the customers do come back, they’re going to need comfort.” Some changes the proprietors are considering are reduced menu options and possibly reopening parts of the eateries up in phases. “Until there’s a vaccination, until everyone knows that this Covid-19 situation is behind us, it’s going to be a totally different environment,” said Meinster. “I don’t know how this industry moves through the next six months.”
While both restaurants remain closed, the restaurateurs are planning to offer carry-out services at both locations beginning sometime in May. In the meantime, to keep their customers engaged, the restaurant’s announced a pizza challenge launching Friday, May 1st. Customers will be able to purchase to-go DIY Tomato Pie Kits to assemble their own pizza creations and interact with other pizza-makers online. To help the community during this difficult time, they have also launched the program, Hospitality Works, partnering with “Meals on Meals” of Mercer County to prepare and deliver meals to those in need. Since inception, the organization has evolved to “Medical Meals on Wheels” delivering to local hospitals, and staff and family of medical professionals working on the frontlines. “We’ll [deliver to] everyone that’s working hard and in a really difficult situation, and we’ll do it all with the donations of money and of people who are good Samaritans,” said Meinster.
Although there is still not an anticipated reopening date for restaurants, Meinster hopes to be back serving his customers soon. “The customers you miss, they’re the reasons we all do it,” said Meinster. “That’s why we do the 16-hour days, it’s not the pay, it’s the love of people and we’re all missing people.”