SALT LAKE CITY -- As restaurants reopen dine-in eating areas, some owners and servers are seeing something they didn’t expect – a big increase in tips!
“Things are a little different right now,” said Matt Crandall a chef and partner at White Horse and Whiskey Street -- as he sat at a high-top table, accessorizing his white chef’s coat with a mask and bright blue latex gloves.
On Monday, Matt spent his day like he did pre-pandemic, jumping back and forth between the kitchens of the neighboring establishments.
A seemingly familiar routine, now mixed in to a blur of sanitization, plexiglass barriers and hand sanitizer.
“Times are changing, every single day it changes,” said Matt.
Nowadays, their staff spends extra time sanitizing between each guest and every 30-minutes. Come 4 o’clock, they shut down for another half-hour to deep clean.
“Every spot is sanitized,” he said. Just minutes prior, employees whizzed around the area with bottles of disinfectant, as a manager listed off the items that had already been cleaned.
All of the cleaning is followed by, you guessed it, more cleaning.
“We’re trying our best to provide a safe environment,” Matt said. “We’ve gone above and beyond those expectations from the local and state health department.”
Head next door to Whiskey Street, it’s more of the same. Booths are blocked off with rope, hand sanitizers are fastened to the entry ways and spray bottles sit at the end of each counter for quick access by staff.
“You can expect to be asked to be sanitized when you walk in,” he said. “[Guests] can also expect a little bit slower paced service, we’ve got our cooks stationed 6-feet apart in order to ensure social distancing and ensure a safe work environment for everybody back there.”
“We feel that it’s important for us to be open right now and provide a safe environment for everybody and a paycheck for everybody too,” he continued.
And, whether you like it or not, all staff and guests are required to wear a mask – which are available for any guests who don’t have one.
“I hate it, but I’ll do it because I want to go out and eat,” said Natalie Mulcock as she sat at a table towards the back. “There are things opening back up, so for me it’s worth it.”
“Treat it as a masquerade party!” patron John Fadel said as he sat next to her. “[It’s] a sign of relief, it’s like things are turning in for the better now.”
Matt said this ‘new normal’ doesn’t appear to be scaring away diners, even though they are operating at 30-percent capacity thanks to the restrictions.
“The staff was super nervous coming back to work because they didn’t know how it would be, we didn’t know how people would react to us opening either,” Matt said. “It’s starting to show that people are happy to be back here.”
And while it’s the same menu… For servers, there’s been a little something unexpected on the side.
“Everybody’s been super generous,” Matt said. “They know that people are struggling financially right now and it’s good to be back to work so I think that people want to help boost the economy and they’ve been tipping very well, they’ve been ordering and they’ve been enthusiastic to be back and support local businesses.”
“I’ve seen 200-dollar tips on a 10-dollar tab,” he continued.
Crandall said even if the state or local agencies decide to loosen dining restrictions – they will still ask guests to wear masks and maintain regular sanitation, just to err on the side of caution.