Restaurants resume indoor dining at a distance

Jul 5, 2020

Restaurants faced ingredient shortages, takeout order backups and added safety measures during the takeout-only phase of the coronavirus shutdown, which makes reopening for more standard dining a relief. 

“We’re just glad to be open and glad to serve customers,” said Brian Vose, owner of Pandolfi’s Mattapoisett Diner.

The diner started indoor and outdoor dining on June 26. While it’s been a slow process to reopen, Vose said, it’s great to just be able to serve customers once again.

“I love it here,” Elaine Vandament said. She frequents the diner more than once a day and enjoys being able to dine inside again, despite not being able to sit next to her friends at the counter.

The diner has outdoor seating too. Vose said getting the furniture was tough because restaurants were clamoring for it all at once. He had to drive to Wrentham with a U-Haul truck to pick up his order that was shipped in from Pennsylvania just to be able to set up outdoor dining.

Vose said restrictions have also been educational for everyone because of increased trainings and protocols. On top of state guidelines, bathrooms are disinfected every hour. 

Down the road at Walrus and Captain, co-owner Kate Sudofsky takeout-only period\ has been a learning process.

When Turk’s Seafood and Sushi closed on March 27, Walrus and Captain got an influx of takeout orders. Slips were lined up out the door, Kate said, and people waited hours for their food. 

“After that night, stuff changed” in how she, her husband Mike, their two kids and their chef, operated the restaurant during the shutdown.

Kate learned to cook alongside their chef Billy, and small changes like making sure everybody on the line gets an order slip has helped the restaurant run more smoothly.

While the restaurant is taking “baby steps” towards in-person dining, as Kate put it, customers can eat their takeout orders at the tables set up inside or at the ones set up on their outdoor patio. 

Brewfish Bar and Eatery in Marion has also made changes to accommodate state guidelines and customers alike. The restaurant added online ordering, reservations and contactless payment to make people at ease.

“I think people like the convenience,” said Erin Zell, owner of Brewfish.

She was nervous about how outdoor and indoor service was going to go, but “people are excited to get back out,” she said. 

The eatery opened back up for outdoor dining on June 17 and indoor on June 24. The short window between the state’s announcements of indoor and outdoor felt like “a big blur” to Zell because she had to scramble to hire more employees.

But the customers appreciate it. Don and Jean Delaplain of Rehoboth have been to Brewfish many times and decided to go for a late lunch while in the area.

Jean said it feels different to use disposable utensils and salt and pepper packets, but “the food is still good.”

On top of those measures, Zell said that the restaurant industry is already vigilant with sanitization, so there were not many changes to their cleaning processes.

Back in Mattapoisett, Joe Sousa, owner of Shipyard Galley, said he has never seen anything like the shutdown in the 33 years since opening.

He cut staff from 14 to 6 in March. During the shutdown, the restaurant also had trouble getting ingredients like eggs and chicken breasts. He is still dealing with yeast shortages.

Now in June with indoor and outdoor dining open again, Sousa said that the restaurant is fully-staffed, and he even needs an extra hand at the front of the store.

Sousa said there has been an uptick in sandwich sales as opposed to salads and other goods. While in-person catering is few and far between, pickup catering is increasing, he said.

Through it all, the community has been “very, very, supportive of us,” Sousa said.