Open for business: Restaurants look at new protocols as they begin to reopen

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Besides adhering to strict state guidelines, local restaurant owners are taking extra steps to protect patrons as they begin reopening to dine-in service.

On March 16, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered restaurants to halt dine-in service to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But most eateries throughout the state, with the exception of Marion and Lake counties, were permitted to reopen May 11 at 50 percent capacity.  Many restaurants, like Wolfies Grill, which has locations in Westfield, Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville and Geist, have taken extra cautionary measures since reopening May 11.

When diners enter a Wolfies Grill, they’ll see a specific entrance and exit. They’ll also see a sign displaying symptoms of COVID-19 and asking diners with those symptoms to not enter the building. Wolfies also takes the temperature of its employees each day and asks them a series of health questions.

“That’s for every employee, and we will document that as long as we need to,” Wolfies Area Director Alec Wolf said. “That’s just a part of this process, making sure anyone entering the building is of good health.”

Wolfies Grill staff members also wear gloves and masks.

“That’s precautionary. It’s not mandated, but for us, we wanted to be on the forefront,” Wolf said.

Wolfies Grill also has created a new paid position called a sanitizer specialist at each of its five locations.  The Broken Barrel in Carmel and Italian House on Park in Westfield,  also owned by the Wolf family, have sanitizer specialists as well.

“This person’s entire job is to keep up on sanitation,” Wolf said. “We have a three-step process where anything with a high-contact surface like chairs, tables, door handles, anything that might get touched frequently, they are going to clean that in a three-step cleaning process. They will disinfect it and use water to remove the disinfectant and finish with sanitizer.”

Sanitizer specialists work throughout the time the restaurants are open – 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. for Wolfies Grill and 5 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday for The Italian House on Park.

At the Geist location, there will be several sanitizer specialists because weekends are busier there.

Pearl Street Pizzeria in the Geist area opened May 11 but reopened with shorter hours, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. The kitchen closes at 9 p.m.

Courtney Andrus, who owns Pearl Street Pizzeria and Pure Eatery in Fishers, said staff are taking extra measures to make sure everyone feels safe.

“We are following all of the (state) guidelines and we have created a reopening packet for our staff with the guidelines and our expectations from them on sanitation,” Andrus said. “Most of that includes wearing a mask, requiring them to wash their hands every 20 minutes, using disposable menus, nothing on tables until the guest is seated, taking temperatures before shifts to confirm (employees) have no fever. That’s all pretty basic compared to what everybody’s doing.”

Wolfies Grill has implemented several new measures, such as adding a sanitizer specialist, paper menus and foot door pulls. Bartender Danine Kincaid cleans a table.

Other safety measures

In addition to wearing gloves and masks, adding sanitation specialists, screening employees and creating designated entries and exits, Wolfies Grill also has added foot door pulls for all doors and made all restrooms single-use only. Clear markers have been placed on the ground to represent where diners should stand if they are waiting, and diners are advised to wait in their cars if there’s a wait list.

Table interaction is limited, and many items are now disposable, such as menus. Condiments like ketchup and mustard will no longer be placed on the table.

“Some of this may be viewed as over dramatic, but we want to be sure we are adhering to everything,” Area Director Alec Wolf said. “In my opinion, I think this will last through July 4. I’m not sure what long term looks like.”


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