Indoor Dining Is Back in NYC. How Will It Affect Restaurants?

With cooler weather upon us, eating outdoors will not be as appealing as it was this past summer during the pandemic. Governor Andrew Cuomo recently cleared the path for New York City restaurants to allow indoor dining starting Sept. 30. Although this is welcome news for the eateries that have been prohibited since March to have patrons dine inside, the restrictions imposed may hinder profitable operations. The city will deploy a team of 400 enforcement personnel to ensure compliance, according to an announcement earlier this month.

According to Newsweek, restaurants must operate at 25% of their capacity and conduct temperature checks at the door. Masks are required unless diners are seated, and contact tracing is required for all patrons.

Restaurant owners are concerned that operating at 25% of the normal seating capacity, they will not be able to clear a profit margin. Hopefully, by Nov. 1, if COVID-19 numbers remain low, officials will reassess the situation and allow eateries to operate at 50% capacity.

According to Business Insider, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that dine-in customers stay at least 6 feet apart and keep their dining parties small. Ideally, people who dine at the same table should be members of the same household because they are exposed to each other every day. The agency also recommends that employees wear masks.

While restaurant owners worry that safety measures will reduce their income since social distancing in dining rooms means operating at reduced capacity, architectural experts told Business Insider that there are ways to optimize profits while minimizing health risks.

  • Air quality. Maintaining clean air circulation can help keep viruses under control, along with social distancing practices.
  • Servers should wear face masks. Dr. Ramzi Asfour, an infectious disease expert in the San Francisco Bay Area, said that restaurants could offer patrons paper bags to store their masks while eating.
  • Hosts should take customers’ temperatures at the door before they enter and offer automatic payment rather than present a physical check.
  • Surround tables with high barriers. Experts told Business Insider that keeping diners 6 feet apart may be impossible for small restaurants. One of their suggestions is to create booths with high plastic barriers between them.
  • Restaurants should not offer communal condiments like ketchup and mustard and should change table linens after every customer.

“Almost everybody will have an infection in their establishment at some point,” Asfour told Busines Insider. “If you can show that you abided by the guidelines, you’ve trained your staff, you’ve thought about air flow, you’ve thought about spacing, you’ve maybe even used a consultant — all of these steps mitigate your risk.”

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