Koval said that he thought that consumers were veering away from patronizing fast-casual restaurants because “you are touching more things, filling up coffee, touching a door. When in a full-service restaurant, you’re not touching as many things.”
The marked drop in weekday business required Koval to decrease the amount of staff needed to run the restaurant. “Tuesday and Wednesday, we ran with one server. We’ll probably do the same this week. And it will be just me and my sous chef on the line in the kitchen.” Typically, the restaurant staffs three servers and four cooks on weekdays.
>> THE LATEST: Complete coronavirus coverage
Restaurant operators are doing more than adjusting staffing. They are taking heightened precautions to ensure the safety of their employees and their guests.
Koval noted that he was in contact with his business partner, George Frangos, who also operates fast-casual Farm Burger. Frangos said they are experiencing a decline in catering business “as a few companies are postponing group meetings and events.” Frangos had planned to send out a companywide memo regarding coronavirus safety protocol Monday.
Longtime Atlanta-based fast-food chain the Varsity has taken numerous precautions due to the spread of the coronavirus. According to President Gordon Muir, it has retrained its dining room and kitchen staff regarding sanitation, stocked up on key cleaning supplies and is adding public sanitizer stations to all locations this week. Last week, the Varsity also added a shift position that is dedicated to sanitation. “That’s all they do. Start at the front door and continue around the whole building and wiping doors, tables, napkin holders on the table. That’s all this person does all day long,” Muir said.
In addition, the Varsity is now giving customers drink refills in new cups rather than refilling previously touched cups.
>> RELATED: How to protect yourself against the coronavirus
Georgia Restaurant Association CEO Karen Bremer continues to receive calls from food service operators asking about coronavirus preparedness. Her response: “Remain calm. Wash your hands. Use disinfectant. Make sure your food handling is impeccable.”
As restaurant operators contend with slowing business and double down on sanitation, organizations like Atlanta-based nonprofit Giving Kitchen are monitoring the possibility of a coronavirus disruption for service workers.
Giving Kitchen offers assistance to food service workers in crisis. Monetary funds are generally awarded in cases of injury, illness, death of an immediate family member or a housing crisis due to a flood or fire. According to executive director Bryan Schroeder, a food service worker in Georgia with a medically confirmed case of coronavirus can apply for financial assistance.
Giving Kitchen is also prepared to serve as a resource for food service workers in the event that their jobs are impacted by a decline in business. “We are going to be as responsive as possible, if we do get to that point,” Schroeder said.