With the announcement that Toronto will move into phase two of reopening on Wednesday, June 24, restaurants across the city are getting ready to reopen their patios to dine-in guests.
Five Toronto restaurant operators share how they’re preparing for the new normal of patio dining.
Gusto 101 and Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen
Juanita Dickson, President & CFO of Gusto 54 Restaurant Group
“We are fortunate that most of our restaurants benefit from some level of outdoor space or patio. We have worked with the City of Toronto to apply for permitting to extend our patios beyond the current limits to allow for more seating with adequate physical distancing.
We are also preparing our teams and restaurants to take additional safety measures — digital menus pulled up via QR codes on each table, shields or masks for our teams, additional safety signage, and barriers at the host stand to protect our team members.”
Chef Kyle Rindinella of Enoteca Sociale
“While we are excited to reopen and are looking forward to hosting guests once again and sharing our hospitality, we won’t be reopening fully on day one. Before we start welcoming guests back onto our patio, we want to make sure that we have procedures in place to prioritize the safety of our guests and staff.
We are looking at the angles and spacing of our patio to ensure social distancing among our guests and we’re looking at a possible patio extension.”
Sofia Restaurant and Bar and KOST
Charles Khabouth, CEO of INK Entertainment
“The supply chain has been weakened significantly as some suppliers have had to shut down and some are struggling to procure certain products. For us, this means menu changes were necessary in terms of ingredients and costs, as sourcing has become difficult and more expensive.
Our top priority is safety and well-being. With that in mind, we are closely following the recommended guidelines from the government and local health officials to ensure the reopening goes as smoothly as possible.
Some of the new measures we have in place include, but are not limited to, training all staff on wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, physically distanced tables (a minimum of six feet apart), frequent cleaning using industry-leading sanitation solutions, disposable dishware and cutlery, touchless menus, separate entrances and exits, and strategically placed staff to mitigate lines and crowding.”
The Chase and Kasa Moto
Kyle Sloopka, Director of Operations with the Chase Hospitality Group
“We were all anticipating it would be a Friday, not a Wednesday, so we’re just trying to realign the teams and get everything sorted.
We have a COVID-19 playbook that we’re going to be sharing with all of the staff — just to go through exactly what the new rules and the new steps of service are going to be to keep people safe.
People are very used to treating our dining rooms like their living rooms, which is what we love. But we need to train our guests on how to properly go about booking reservations versus walking in and on abiding by some of the rules and regulations to keep us safe and have it be an enjoyable experience.
A lot of staff have potentially rethought whether or not they’re going to be coming back to the industry at all, so we can’t just simply rely on all the same people to come back.
It’s just not as simple as flipping the light switch back on again.”
Ascari Enoteca, Hi-Lo Bar and Gare de l’Est
John Sinopoli, Partner & Executive Chef with Ascari Hospitality Group
“We have two existing patios and we are hoping to add two more to our other properties through the CafeTO program. As soon as we can be physically ready, train our staff and get our kitchen teams prepared, we will open. Ideally, it will be on the first day allowed but realistically that will be a challenge.
The largest challenge is likely going to be our teams getting their sea legs back underneath them while adjusting to the many new and necessary protocols for executing service.
Also, managing the guests’ expectations in both quality and speed of service while adhering to the new guidelines could be a challenge, but I’m sure as the public and our team get a few days under their belt, all will be well.
The first few days will require extra patience and care on everyone’s part (including the guests!) as we know that everyone will be excited to be out enjoying a meal and a drink on the patio and our team will be excited to be back at doing what they love.”
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity