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Dining Out: The 25-Percent Era

It’s no secret that the culinary industry has endured one roundhouse right after another since the outbreak of COVID-19. According to the National Restaurant Association, more than 8 million restaurant employees have been furloughed or laid off; the industry, as a whole, lost some $80 billion in U.S. sales through April.

The national numbers are echoed in Palm Beach County by too many restaurateurs struggling to stay afloat. According to Jason Sobel, operations manager for Casa D’Angelo (171 E. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton; casa-d-angelo.com/boca-raton) and Angelo Elia Pizza, Bar & Tapas (16950 Jog Road, Delray Beach; angeloeliapizza.com), business is down between “70 and 90%” from last year’s sales.

“We’ve had to furlough 85% of our staff,” Sobel says, “which was heartbreaking, since a lot of them had been with us for years. We look forward to bringing them back on as soon as we can.”

For some staff, that means this week. Angelo Elia Pizza began welcoming customers indoors on Monday, the first day of Phase 1 reopening for Palm Beach County; Casa D’Angelo is holding off until Friday (May 15). The initial phase includes 25% occupancy for restaurants. But what else can diners expect?

Sobel says that his team is educating staff on all recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including the utilization of UV technology to sanitize and the addition of several hand sanitizers throughout the restaurants. Kitchen staff at Casa D’Angelo and Angelo Elia Pizza already have been wearing masks during takeout service.

“We will be installing the Aerobiotix system in all of our restaurants, which will help keep them as sanitary as possible for guests,” Sobel says. “Additionally, we will continue to sanitize all tables, chairs, surfaces, bathrooms, etc. multiple times per hour to ensure our guests are in the safest environment. We will have the CDC guidelines posted around the restaurant and ensure that gloves are worn and hands are washed (by staff) as often as possible.

“We’ll also be trying to use our reservation system to avoid having people wait in common spaces. Our outdoor seating will be a prime dining area, and we will utilize it as much as we can safely.”

At Farmer’s Table, the responsibly sourced, healthy food spot in Boca Raton (1901 N. Military Trail; dinefarmerstable.com), co-owner Joey Giannuzzi is targeting June 1 as a reopening date due to construction updates (the restaurant’s North Palm Beach location is open and following Phase 1 guidelines).

Giannuzzi says that his sales are down approximately 75% compared to last year—and that he’s had to let go 260 people between both restaurants.

The good news for Farmer’s Table aficionados is that both locations encompass some 20,000 square feet, meaning that seating capacity is greatly increased indoors and outside.

“We will be able to accommodate about 190 guests inside, outside and in our featured banquet space [The Oak Room] in Boca Raton,” Giannuzzi says. “Our strategy will be focused on keeping our guests comfortable dining with us—and our staff comfortable with coming into work. We will resume service with a ‘greatest hits’ all-day menu to start in both locations.”

Photo: Buffalo Cauliflower from Farmers Table; photo by Gyorgy Papp

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