After 35 Years, Red Bank’s Front Street Trattoria Has Closed
It’s just not worth it. In a town where restaurants come and go, keeping the doors open for more than three decades is an accomplishment. It also is a lot of work, and after 35 years, Michael and Valerie Aufiero are ready for something new. Their Red Bank restaurant, Front Street Trattoria, has been closed since March and will not reopen under their ownership. But the couple doesn’t want their customers to be sad. “We’ve been in the restaurant business a very long time,” Michael said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s a very long, hard business and you can get burned out. And at 68, it’s starting to take its toll.”
The Newest COVID-19 Restaurant Dilemma
How long to hang on? This summer is turning out to be a bloodbath for restaurant owners across the country. From famous names to neighborhood favorites, experienced restaurateurs are facing the agonizing decision of how long to hang on, and when it’s time to pull the plug. For some, the decision is made a bit less difficult because they have multiple places. And customers might be able to find their favorite server and menu items at another spot owned by the same proprietor or company. Making the call to close can be easier if the owners were already thinking of retiring or want to shift to another style of cooking. But what if you aren’t ready to give up?
NJ Adjusts Rule Allowing Patio Seating
At new Ocean City eatery. Sand House Kitchen brought something a little different to Ocean City. The new restaurant features a seafood-inspired breakfast and lunch menu, with a Hawaiian twist. They also faced an obstacle because of a little-known rule New Jersey set during the coronavirus pandemic. State officials found issues with the outdoor patio deck overlooking the beach. It all happened quickly. Sand House Kitchen opened July 3. Three days later, a police officer delivered a message from the state. The outdoor deck had a fixed roof, rather than a cloth or retractable awning. The covering is made from plastic roofing panel to protect customers from UV rays and inclement weather. The roof’s material made the outdoor deck into indoor dining, according to the state’s rules at the time.
$1,000 Tip on a $43 Bill
A restaurant patron thanked restaurant workers for working through the pandemic. Arnold Teixeira, owner of the Starving Artist, a restaurant in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, posted about a generous patron of his restaurant. The customer, who is choosing to remain anonymous, left a $1,000 tip on a $43 bill — roughly, a 2,400% tip— which the staff all split. The generous tipper also left a note that left employees teary-eyed. The note that accompanied the check made us all cry! Thank you from the depths of our hearts.
What Will a Second Shutdown do to Restaurants
We knew that a second shutdown was possible. Pandemics such as the coronavirus, after all, come in waves. Many experts pointed out the Spanish Flu epidemic, which had a second, more serious wave in the fall of 1918. They felt the same would happen to the coronavirus, theorizing that it would take hold again once the weather turned cooler. We certainly didn’t expect it so soon. California on Monday announced a statewide shutdown and completely closed the state’s bars. Vice President Mike Pence told governors to do what they could to stop the virus. Philadelphia is banning large gatherings through February. Several other communities have either taken steps or are considering it. The upshot: The economy certainly appears to be careening toward a second shutdown months before it was supposed to happen. The good news for the industry is they are better prepared for such a thing, as is the customer base.
Six Questions the Pandemic Has Yet to Answer for Restaurants
Operators are still looking for insight on these matters keeping them up at night. When restaurant dining was suspended in March to slow the spread of coronavirus, operators were plunged into the unknown. The situation was unprecedented, so the answers to pressing questions were at best a stab in the dark. Were they looking at a crisis of two weeks, or two months? Could they stay afloat? How could they lay out money for rent and other expenses with so little revenue coming in? What forms of assistance would be available? What could they do to protect themselves from the virus? Some answers would emerge in time, but operators still haven’t found a reliable map to what they can expect, near term and later in the year. Here are some of the more pressing questions that remain, and what’s been revealed in recent days.
Best Practices to Consider When Reopening Restaurants
Questions facing restaurateurs outnumber the answers. Should we reopen for dine-in service? What are the federal, state and local guidelines to manage? How do we provide safety for our guests and for our workforce? What do customers even want from their restaurants in a post-coronavirus world? Safe to say, few industries have changed more drastically than food service in the last few months. The pandemic reshaped the entire economic model of food. And our fundamental roles as restaurant-goers and as social beings have changed. What’s the go-forward strategy for that?
What It’s Like to Work in an NYC Restaurant During the Pandemic
According to staffers. When outdoor dining returned to New York City in late June, Charles Payne was hesitant to go back to his job as a server at a neighborhood bar in Brooklyn. But with enhanced unemployment benefits set to expire at the end of July, Payne took the shifts. By the end of the week, he was bedridden with a cough and fever, and his workplace was shuttered. He is convinced that he got the virus during those first few days of outdoor dining. Eater spoke to workers across the city to get an on-the-ground perspective of what it’s like returning to work for restaurant industry staffers in the middle of a pandemic. All spoke under the condition of anonymity, to avoid reprisal from their employers or, in some cases, the government. Their names have been modified.
Did You Know?
Coca-Cola reveals a touch-free freestyle machine, as restaurants ditch soda fountains during the pandemic. As restaurants ditch self-serve soda fountains, Coca-Cola is linking machines to people’s phones. On Monday, Coca-Cola announced that it is rolling out an update to its Freestyle machine that allows customers to choose and pour drinks via smartphone — making it a touchless soda fountain. People can pour drinks simply by scanning the QR code on the Freestyle machine, without having to download an app or create an account. The beverage options then appear on the phone screen, allowing people to control what they want to pour into their cups. The entire process takes just a few seconds.
With tips down, some restaurants have raised wages for servers. Will it last? In this new world, where business is way down and so few people are dining in, owners wonder if having staff rely on tips was still a viable model. The answer in pandemic times is no, you cannot pay somebody $2.13 an hour and hope that guests come in the restaurant. Tips are down between 75% and 90% nationwide, according to One Fair Wage, a nonprofit that advocates for higher wages for service workers. Because of that, a lot of restaurants are reevaluating how they pay their staff, and many are raising hourly wages to incentivize people to return to work. That is particularly true at small and medium-sized restaurants in bigger cities.
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