Restaurants in Alabama, and elsewhere in the nation, are thinking ahead to the day when their dining room doors reopen to a changed world due to the coronavirus. Restaurant owners say there may be physical differences, like masked waiters, disposable menus or fewer tables so patrons can sit further apart. Richard Schwartz' company owns several Alabama beachside restaurants, including Doc's Seafood Shack in Orange Beach and Hazel's Nook in Gulf Shores. During Alabama Public Radio's series on the tenth anniversary of the Gulf oil spill, Schwartz shares his "post COVID" plans with APR's Guy Busby.
“When it first happened, we had to remove tables and lower the density in the restaurant and we did that," says Schwartz. "And I told them yesterday that when we have to come back, we’re not going to be, people are not going to want to sit as tight as they have been sitting, so we’re going to not make them do that,” he says. “It’s part of what we do. I’m glad to do that. Happy. I enjoy doing it. It’s what we do, we feed people. "
Restaurant owners speculate there will be signs explaining cleaning procedures and glass dividers to protect cashiers. Disinfectant wipes might sit next to napkin dispensers. In some places, local regulations will likely dictate how and when restaurants can open. That's what has happened in Hong Kong and China, which make restaurants take patrons' temperatures and regulate how far apart tables must be.