With William Shakespeare, it was: “To be, or not to be? That is the question." With restaurant GMs, the question has become: “To open, or not to open?” For Rainbow, the single-named GM at Asian Paradise, that is the question with which she has grappled. “I not sure what to do—to open when they say okay, or not. I think we (may) wait; see how it goes with others (restaurants). We (are) doing pretty good with carryout; pay bills at least. We always do good (even before the virus struck) with carryout; now better, but not as good as when we (are) open all the way.”
For the record, Ohio’s Governor Mike DeWine has indicated that restaurants will be permitted to begin serving at outside (al fresco) tables tomorrow, May 15, and will be able to serve patrons indoors on May 21. He said reopening restaurants is a risk we must take. He had this to say as well: “All of us collectively control this (risk). I ask you to take calculated risks and make good judgments. Continue social distancing, washing your hands, and wearing face coverings. If you aren’t concerned with what happens to you, do it for others.” Obviously, none of us can wear masks and eat or drink, so there is that. But the sentiment is clear and unambiguous—take care, think of others, exercise good judgment.
Of the managers Dining Out has spoken to lately, about half expressed the same wait-and-see sentiment Rainbow mentioned. What we hear is a mix of ambivalence and angst from those who manage the eateries we patronize. On one hand, there is the desire to throw the doors open and invite diners-out to enjoy a meal served in the time-honored restaurant manner—with virus-induced changes, of course. On the other hand, will it be safe? Will serving people at tables be safe for the diners? For the staff? For the world beyond the restaurant’s doors?
Nobody knows the answers to either horn of the dilemma caused by COVID-19. For Rainbow and Asian Paradise, one aspect of the situation is clear and concise: the biz will be different when the doors do open (al fresco dining is not available). “We clean a lot before—keep everything clean and inviting for people. We going to clean a lot more now (when the eatery re-opens).”
New protocols will be in place as restaurants re-establish dine-in service to patrons. First, the spacing will be different. Tightly clustered tables, diners seated chair-back to chair-back, wait staff sidling sideways through slight gaps between seated patrons? Not anymore—at least for the rest of 2020, and probably well into next year. Spreading out tables—six or more feet between seat-backs—and employing every-other-booth seating will be the new normal. And who was that masked man? No, not the Lone Ranger, but your server, who will wear a mask and vinyl gloves while caring for the needs of your table.
The good news for Asian Paradise is that their table arrangements already are spaced out in such a way that diners are not cheek by jowl. Except for booth seating, which are bench-seated back-to-back, one after another, this eatery already is set for the separation formula the State of Ohio will mandate or recommend. What that means to diners-out is that Asian Paradise is one of the safer places you can dine.
COVID-19 has brought about a sea change for sure. What will not change at Asian Paradise is the emphasis on the food and how it is prepared. For Jewish diners, Rainbow said that scratch preparations are the standard in her kitchen, so of course a diner may opt in or out of virtually anything in a recipe. Even most of the sauces are scratch preparations done at the time of the order. This approach not only allows choices, but also maintains the freshness of flavors and textures. Asian Paradise mimics that of Chinese street vendors and restaurants in her native land in that regard, she said, and it is made to order for kosher-style diners-out as well.
When doors do reopen at Asian Paradise, Rainbow promises returning patrons will find the entire menu awaiting them. The only caveat is supply—beef for instance. Some items are in short supply or impossible to get, since the pandemic spread in heartland states has shuttered much of the meat processing capability in the nation. So, what’s wrong with veggies?
See you soon at Asian Paradise!
9521 Fields Ertel Road
Loveland, OH 45140