While quarantine has put many businesses at risk, restaurants have some of the toughest problems to solve when it comes to ensuring their customers’ safety.
It is impossible to require customers to wear a mask while eating. As a result, many restaurants have either implemented special policies in response to COVID-19 or have temporarily shut down.
Starbucks, one of the dining places open during this time, has seen a fluctuating amount of customers from the start of quarantine until now.
“At the beginning, there were fewer customers, but now there are more, and we are actually earning more money,” Sabrina Caminiti, an employee at Starbucks, said.
Caminiti believes this is because people are becoming used to their new social distancing policies and are excited about Starbucks’ seasonal holiday drinks.
According to Caminiti, Starbucks requires customers to social distance and limits the number of people who can be inside. She says employees are also sanitizing the area every 30 minutes and washing their hands frequently. In addition, she feels that Starbucks is exceptionally considerate when it comes to their employees.
“We are also provided with face shields. I feel that our company has also been helping out its employees a lot during the process [of quarantine]; during the 3 months we were closed, they never stopped paying their employees,” Caminiti said.
Ella Yee, a sophomore at Carlmont High School, recounted her experiences with quarantine policies when dining at both Pacific Catch in downtown San Mateo and True Food at Stanford Shopping Center. According to Yee, both restaurants are primarily serving people outside with spaced-apart tables.
“I feel pretty protected with the policies. As we have learned more about COVID-19, I think people are beginning to realize most of the risk of contracting the disease is through the air, not as much as on surfaces, so I’m a little more comfortable with sitting down at a restaurant,” Yee said.
Yet despite the safety precautions these businesses take, many still feel uncomfortable with the idea of in-person eating. Contrary to Yee, College of San Mateo freshman Alicia Khor has not dined at a restaurant since quarantine started. She believes that it is safer for everyone to stay indoors as much as possible.
“I really want to keep my distance with people and especially when it comes to dining in; it increases your chance of affecting yourself and other people as well because you won’t be wearing your mask while eating. That’s why I prefer to take out or just go for drive-throughs,” Khor said.
As the year comes to an end, many believe that the holiday season will bring more customers to restaurants. Holiday specials, such as the seasonal drinks at Starbucks, could be a way to elicit enough involvement from consumers to help boost the profits and morale of local dining places. Restaurants will continue to follow safety guidelines, and face the challenges during this time.