Food And Drinks

Detroit Restaurant Owners React to New Rules Limiting Table Sizes, Requiring Collecting Contact Information


On Thursday, October 29, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued new mandates to operate restaurants and bars during the COVID-19 pandemic. While many of the rules were in line with previous orders that have been in place since the summer, food and beverage companies must now limit groups to a maximum of six people and begin recording names, phone numbers, and the dates and times of their visits for customer contact tracking purposes.

Although the changes seemed relatively modest to many restaurants and bar owners compared to what the industry went through with dine-in closings earlier this year, the announcement of the new rules felt like another blow to their businesses at a time When they were just starting to find a routine.

Nancy Diaz is the owner of La Palapa del Parian and the El Parian food truck fleet, and recently acquired Taqueria Los Altos in southwest Detroit. Diaz, like many business owners, is concerned that customers may react negatively to the state’s new guidelines. Many people in the neighborhood are already reluctant to share personal information because they are or might be living with someone who is not documented. “There are some people who don’t even understand why they have to wear a mask when they walk into a restaurant,” she says. “I’ve only just gotten used to it [the system]and now I have to get her used to a whole new process. ”

“Imposing quick restrictions on us that require man hours, technical assistance, and lack of resources – that’s kind of an insult.”

Diaz had also faced challenges for large groups who wanted to dine in their restaurant. Two weeks ago, Diaz said a group of 15 people came in and wanted to sit at a table. At this point, La Palapa Del Parian was already limiting groups to 10 people or less. When Diaz offered to split the group at two tables, the customers decided to go out. She understands why customers are frustrated, but also knows the importance of complying with government regulations as a business owner. Failure to follow the rules can lead to licensing issues and fines. It also points out that many families live in households of more than six people; According to the rules, she would not be able to accommodate the families in which she dine.

At Ivy Kitchen and Cocktails on the east side of Detroit, owner Nya Marshall resisted the new regulations on Friday. “All of these mandates are given without preparation and without notice,” she says. “Most restaurants are currently not making any money. We are fortunate enough to break even with quick restrictions that require man hours, technical assistance, and no resources – this is kind of an insult. “

Marshall is particularly concerned about how group restrictions will affect her restaurant, which opened in January and didn’t reopen until the fall with the help of a government-sponsored crowdfunding campaign. “That definitely affects my brunch. My brunch is filled with groups of 10 or more and now, to keep it down to six, we’re just not making any money again. Like Diaz, Marshall points out that the rule is not suitable for households with large families. “I understand the rules, but groups of six or more live in one household. So does that mean they can’t eat together? It just doesn’t make sense to me. “

While recognizing that public health concerns are pressing, Marshall believes that business owners have been largely excluded from the conversations that affect their industry and are not receiving enough warnings or assistance as new processes are created can if the guidelines change. “When you execute a mandate, you give the company – not just restaurants, but all companies – time to respond instead of giving us a day, two days, three days. It just doesn’t make sense, ”she says.

On Friday October 30th, Diaz and her staff were forced to find ways to comply with the new contact tracing regulations, which will go into effect on Monday November 2nd. She initially considered asking the host to keep track of each customer’s information but did so as she decided there would be less pressure on the staff if they instead put Spanish and English cards on tables to cope with the new food rules explain and ask customers to fill in their information themselves. “The people who do that [our] Printing work, they don’t work on weekends, ”she says. “I don’t want to rush it, but I have to rush it.”

Stephen Roginson found himself in the same situation, trying to work out the simplest system for the Batch Brewing Company in Corktown. “It would be one thing if we had a reservation system,” says Roginson, pointing out that sites like OpenTable and Tock are already recording names, phone numbers, and the days and times people visit a company. “I just really hope people don’t go insane if we collect their personal information,” he says, noting that just because it is necessary does not necessarily mean that people have to provide accurate information. He’s currently planning to place a guest book at the entrance to the pole barn where Batch is currently sitting customers and asking customers to sign up.

Due to the short notice, Marshall says she will be forced to use a manual system for the time being, where staff will manually record guest information. Finally, she hopes to implement a system where customers register online with their contact information. “That way, I don’t have to have someone to do the job manually because I can’t afford it,” she says, pointing out that the requirement will lead to more work for an already stressed staff.

For every restaurant owner Eater has spoken to, the news of new regulations and an increase in novel coronavirus cases raises fears that another dine-in shutdown may be on the way. “I think that’s the fear of every bar and restaurant that we have to close again – especially in communities like southwest Detroit,” says Diaz. According to Diaz, many customers in the neighborhood work in landscaping or construction, which already leads to sales declines in winter. If restaurants are forced to stop personal service again, it could make the season even more difficult. “[Customers aren’t] You will be spending money on ordering food … you will be spending money on food at home, to cook meals, and save yourself money, ”says Diaz.

“I’ve already lost my hair anyway,” says Diaz of the stress of 2020. “It is what it is. We have to take care of it. As long as we are all healthy and safe, we should be fine. I think that is most important. “She hopes the new regulations will help slow the rise in COVID-19 cases.” I understand our numbers are increasing, “she says.” If that helps us not to shut down again , we may as well do it. “

• Michigan Health Department is revising rules for bars and restaurants amid COVID-19 cases [ED]
• What are Michigan’s COVID-19 rules for restaurants and bars right now? [ED]
• How coronavirus is affecting the food and beverage industry in Detroit [ED]

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Dusty Kennedy