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


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.

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Rachel Firestone and Samir Mohammad soon will open 9th Street Bistro in Noblesville. (Submitted photo)

One Noblesville restaurant originally planned to open the first weekend in April, but due to the pandemic, they’ve had to swap their business plan.

9th Street Bistro is a dine-in restaurant, but since their opening day was set to occur in the midst of a pandemic, owners Rachel Firestone and Samir Mohammad decided to offer items diners could reheat at home, instead. They’re not sure when they’ll open the dining room.

“We are still finalizing the timeline because of the small space of our dining room, so if we space the tables out 6 feet and had 50 percent capacity, we would only have about four tables, so we are waiting on that,” Firestone said. “We decided not to open the dining room quite yet. We will reevaluate the different stages as they go into effect.”
Mohammad and Firestone are screening themselves daily for symptoms.

“Originally, we were intending to just open for dinner service only, so after everything happened, we took time to really think about what people in the community need in light of the coronavirus,” Firestone said. “We thought about people who are immunocompromised or high risk, and people who just don’t feel comfortable going out to eat, and we wanted to be able to still offer good meals in the safety of their homes.”

Many of 9th Street Bistro’s current menu items are different than those planned for when the dining room opens.

“A lot of the menu we originally envisioned, we looked at it and thought it isn’t going to travel well, so we looked through all of our backlogged inventory of dishes and menu items and really focused on ones that could be reheated and would travel well,” Firestone said.

To order items, visit 9th Street Bistro also is at the Noblesville Farmers Market weekly from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays at Federal Hill Commons.

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Wolfies Grill has established several new measures, such as adding a sanitizer specialist, paper menus and foot door pulls. (Photos by Anna Skinner)

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.”