New York restaurants are considering hiring a new one as indoor dining comes back halfway
Fakahny said 50% indoor capacity will allow him to start thinking about doing business on a large scale again, including hiring more kitchen workers and waiters and reopening for weekday lunch service. He said, “35% didn’t actually do that.”
For restaurants that now have outside spaces, the number of seats is approaching pre-pandemic totals. At the Altamarea location in Osteria Morini, for example, there were 95 seats in February 2020. With a capacity of 50%, the restaurant offers space for 40 people at a distance. In good weather, up to 25 additional people can be accommodated, making a total of 65 people.
As you accommodate more guests, you can hire a few more chefs. This means that more dishes can come back on the menu, for example all of the Branzino in Marea. The number of starters and the choice of crudo – essentially Italian sashimi – may also increase.
“When you have a wide menu, you need more staff to run it,” said Fakahny. He’s considering adding three or four chefs to a team of about 12 people. He said attitudes will depend on the demand and good weather for outdoor dining.
At Zum Stammtisch, a beer hall in Glendale, Queens, with 50% indoor occupancy and newly added outdoor seating next door, the restaurant can serve about 90 people, compared to 110 people before last March. The weekends were full, said co-owner Werner Lehner. If the weather cooperates, Zum may have a few more employees than originally employed.
In order to meet the changing restrictions, Lehner has set up and rearranged the seats in the beer hall. It is geometrically difficult to increase the load factor to 50% while keeping the tables 6 feet apart, and Zum will likely add see-through partitions between the tables to maintain separation even though the structures change the atmosphere.
“You feel like you are eating in a bank,” he said.
Not all restaurants are seeing sufficient demand for expanded capacity, especially those that previously relied on business travelers who now work from home.
“The fact that you can open a venue doesn’t mean a whole lot of people will come to that venue,” said Vin McCann, restaurant consultant at Heyer Performance. “It’s about safety and comfort.”
Other restaurant operators said they won’t open until they are 100% occupied and masks are no longer needed for safety reasons.
Dawn Kelly, who runs The Nourish Spot, a smoothie and juice bar in Jamaica, said she will wait until she can really welcome her community back to their place.
The Nourish Spot is about more than just serving smoothies and salads. Kelly said, “This is a meeting place.”