How restaurants have adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic

The new method of food service


Brooke Herstein / Talon

Lamppost Pizza adds a drive through so customers can easily pick up their food without going into the restaurant.

Many restaurants have had to deal with uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic. These restaurant owners and employees have learned how to adapt to and overcome the challenges they have been faced with.

From the beginning of the pandemic, restaurants have struggled to stay in business. 

According to the National Restaurant Association, “Nearly 1 in 6 restaurants (of nearly 100,000 restaurants) is closed either permanently or long-term; nearly 3 million employees are still out of work.” 

According to Forbes, “heightened awareness adds to the stress levels of both restaurant employees and diners themselves.Customers of restaurants are more aware of who handles their food and the risks associated with eating food that is prepared by restaurants, so both the people who are preparing the food and the people who are eating the food are both suffering stress.

Local restaurants, Margaritas Mexican Grill and Lamppost Pizza, have had to cope with the challenges they have been faced with while the county is trying to reopen. Each restaurant has their own way of dealing with the struggles of keeping their business afloat.

“You can download our application on the App Store or Google Play. You can order online and there is contactless pickup. You can also order delivery,” Margaritas Mexican Grill Manager Jeff Lucatero said. 

Margaritas Mexican Grill is able to serve people on their outside patio in addition to takeout and delivery.

“We practice social distancing and everyone is required to wear masks. We are constantly sanitizing everything that we handle,” Lucatero said. 

Sanitation is a crucial element in keeping employees and customers safe. Everything that is touched must be sanitized and groups of people from different households must stay distanced from one another in order to follow the CDC guidelines.

“I know people are worried, but from what we know currently about the virus, it’s safe to eat food prepared at restaurants so long as you take the proper precautions — in particular hand-washing,” Professor Don Schaffner of Rutgers University said to NPR.

The patio at Margaritas Mexican Grill is where customers are served and can eat outside. (Photo courtesy of Sydney Herstein/Talon)

Margaritas Mexican Grill has noticed a decrease in the number of customers since the beginning of the pandemic, since some people are hesitant to eat outside of their homes at restaurants. 

“Now, with our patio outside, we hope more customers will return,” Lucatero said.

One of the biggest challenges Margaritas Mexican Grill has faced has been the overwhelming amount of takeout orders. This restaurant has had to produce a large quantity of takeout orders and it has become difficult for them to keep everything organized. The restaurant found it beneficial for the employees’ workload to stop customers from dining indoors, as it made answering phones much easier without surrounding distractions and noises. 

“My family and I ate outside at Margaritas Mexican Grill. The service and food was great. Everything was well sanitized and the tables were spaced out,” freshman Annalie Cass said.

In addition to Margaritas Mexican Grill, Lamppost Pizza has also experienced difficulties while adapting to COVID-19 regulations.

Unlike Margaritas Mexican Grill, Lamppost Pizza does not have outside seating; however, they have their own creative ways of keeping their business alive. 

“We have a drive-through, so people call in the orders and they drive through and pick it up,” Lamppost Pizza owner Judy Hodgson said.  

Lamppost Pizza’s drive-through allows customers to get their food order right when they pull up to the restaurant. They also provide contactless pickup for customers and delivery through the Doordash application. Staff will put the customers’ order in their car with very minimal contact.      

“I ordered from the Lamppost Pizza drive-through, and my order was brought right out to the car, and everyone who was serving was wearing a mask. They had little contact with customers, and was a very safe place to eat from,” freshman Olivia Papanicolaou said.

Papanicolaou expressed that the service and sanitation process that Lamppost used was great and that their service was convenient for customers.

To keep up with sanitation and safety standards, Lamppost Pizza uses masks, gloves and temperature checks.  In addition to sanitation and safety, Lamppost Pizza continues to make changes. Staff members work much harder because of low employee numbers. For the restaurant, it is challenging to answer all of the phone calls and order requests during rush hours due to the cutback on employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The drive-through is great. If I didn’t have a drive-through I don’t know if I would still be open,” Hodgson said. 

For many, a drive-through is seen as a simple and easy way to pick up food, but for Lamppost Pizza, it is an essential part of their business.

As safety restrictions are evolving, restaurants must once again adapt. As a result of these new restrictions, there is no indoor or outdoor dining allowed at restaurants. Currently, Margaritas Mexican Grill and Lamppost Pizza are only allowed to prepare food for takeout and delivery.

Many restaurants, including Margaritas Mexican Grill and Lamppost Pizza, have faced many hardships throughout their experiences while keeping their restaurants safe, sanitized, and in business.

We think it is very important to support small businesses during these difficult times, and it has become a joy for us to chat and decide which restaurant we will order from next,” English Department Chair Kathy Bowman said.