This article originally appeared on VICE US.
Drone delivery. Single-use menus. Fine dining drive-thru. Bingo cards with every delivery? In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurant owners are developing new and creative ways to maintain social distancing to keep staff and customers safe. MUNCHIES and SAPPORO have partnered to check in on chefs and restaurateurs across the US to find out how they’re handling this incredibly difficult time.
“Restaurateurs are some of the most creative people I’ve ever met,” said Lisa Schroeder, Executive Chef and Owner of Mother’s Bistro in Portland, Oregon. “They came up with the great ideas for the restaurant, they’ll find a great way to sell the food they’ve made.” For Schroeder, that means utilizing the ample square footage of Mother’s, spacing tables and moving many outdoors. It’s also meant re-imaging every aspect of her business: making single-use or laminated/washable menus, no-touch sink and paper towel dispensers, and plexiglas in front of the hostess stand.
Mark Canlis, owner of Seattle’s highly-touted “tweezer food” fine dining spot Canlis, brought his staff together when it became apparent they’d need to close or find an inventive way to stay open. They settled on a drive-thru, serving customers the high-end eats they’re known for right at their cars. When that gummed up traffic around the restaurant—not to mention their growing uncomfortable with servers doing “thousands of credit card swipes” a day—they further reduced exposure by going delivery only and splitting their kitchen staff into AM and PM crews. Also, duh, they offered Bingo cards in their food deliveries, and encouraged customers to play along with them virtually via a link to a livestream on the card.
Greiner’s Deli Sub Shop owner Todd Tyrone went (literally) above and beyond that, taking to the sky to give Indianapolis, Indiana his famous Meathead Meatball and Mother Clucker Chicken sandwiches delivered via drone, an ingenious, touch-free method that’s so popular they can’t keep up with orders.
And finally, David Hahn, owner of the Richmond, Virginia eatery Salt and Forge set his small nine-person team up in a food truck which acts as a “mobile drive-thru” in the neighborhoods it sets up in each day. Payments are made virtually when the orders are made, eliminating the need for contact for those picking up from the truck. Hahn further posts online what precautions customers need to take to pick up his signature sandwiches and Big Time Biscuits. He, in turn, abides by the different rules of the Home Owners Associations that govern each of the neighborhoods he serves in.
“There’s something about the human spirit that wants to endure and so if Canlis can be even a small example of that... I would be so proud of this place,” said Canalis. “If you could just turn off and just enjoy a delicious meal,” seconds Canalis’s Executive Chef Brady Williams, “It’s a blessing to be an arbiter of that.