KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
May 22, 2020
By Natalie Cook Clark
The coronavirus pandemic has caused an economic crisis locally and nationally. Recently, the Texas restaurant industry has seen a little relief as owners were permitted to welcome dine-in guests after operating only drive-thru and takeout for nearly a month. See how local restaurants are faring going into Memorial Day Weekend and how the community can help them in this difficult time.
Katy's Astor Farm to Table resumes dine-in while still offering takeout.
Local Restaurants Still Hurting After 'Reopening'
On May 1, Texas Governor Greg Abbott gave restaurants permission to reopen dining rooms at 25% capacity, after a month of forced closure. For weeks, restaurants had only been allowed to offer drive-thru, takeout and delivery. Many favorite local eateries suffered major profit losses.
On May 18, Governor Abbott announced the following as part of Phase 2 of his plan to reopen Texas:
"Restaurants may expand their occupancy to 50% beginning May 22. Bars—including wine tasting rooms, craft breweries, and similar businesses—may open at 25% occupancy but like restaurants, these occupancy limits do not apply to outdoor areas that maintain safe distancing among parties."
Unfortunately, numbers are still down and many Katy restaurants are still suffering an economic hardship.
“Since we reopened, things have been crazy,” says Casey Castro, owner of Astor Farm to Table. “It feels like you are a new restaurant that is trying to figure out how to get customers at the door.”
“Sales have slowly increased, but it’s still nowhere near what we were doing before the pandemic,” says Chris Vasquez, owner of Azul Seafood Tapas. “We have temporarily changed our hours from 5-9p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, and from 12-5p.m. on Sunday to cut the labor cost. We can't wait to open for lunch again, but at this time it's just not feasible.”
“It’s been challenging since the reopening day but we feel extremely blessed to be able to retain all of our employees so we can gear up for better days,” says Zack Kuru, owner of Drix Restaurant and Lounge. “Our sister establishment, Midpoint Bar and Eatery, has been closed for a while so our regular customers from there came to visit Drix consistently. That helped us a quite bit. However we are getting ready to reopen Midpoint tomorrow.”
“Being in the industry is hard,” says Lindsey Martin, manager of The Local Bar. “People are still scared. We offer a safe environment for people to come let loose.”
Many restaurants are still turning to special offers and family meal packs to bring guests to their doors. The Local Table is one local restaurant offering family packages that make feeding families easy and economical. They also offer dine-in, takeout, and delivery through Uber Eats and Grubhub.
Katy Residents React to Restaurant Openings
Katy residents have reacted to restaurant openings with mixed feelings.
“I ate at Texas Borders for lunch,” says Katy resident Lindsay Folse. “Food was perfect and it was so great to eat somewhere other than my kitchen.”
Some residents are still opting to stay in while continuing to support local restaurants. “I’ll order takeout to support businesses and will be sure to tip well,” says Ginny Ebben.
Others are still staying home. “I’m quite capable of making my own meals and am happy to know who handles it before I eat it,” says Sophie Scholl.
Meat Plant Closures Increase Costs
Another big hit to the food and restaurant industry is the meat plant closures.
“The price of meat has doubled because of all the meat plant closings,” says Randy Duncan of Daddy Duncan’s BBQ.
How Can the Community Help?
While local restaurants remain to struggle, there are ways in which the community can help support them.
“We still do quite a bit of orders via take-out while the dining room is slowly starting to have people sit down,” says Vasquez. “Take-out has been able to help us keep our head above water during this time, but we still favor to see people's smiling faces sitting down at our tables.”
Government Outlines Safety Requirements
Restaurants initially resumed dine-in service at 25% capacity (this has since been increased to 50%) and were required to meet a range of requirements to keep customers and employees safe.
Table seating shall be limited to every other table at a minimum.
· Tables shall be 6-10 feet apart
· No groups of more than 6 people
· Patio areas or gated areas will also adhere to the same spacing and seating
Servers shall wear a mask at all times while on duty.
· Businesses shall continue to monitor employees for any signs and/or symptoms of COVID-19 and have a system in place to protect sick from working (example: temperature taking)
Waiting area needs to address the six-feet separation, and limit the waiting areas to follow the 25% capacity rule.
· All areas will need to be cleared and kept up during open operations.
“We have implemented all the governor rules and requirement to keep our customers and employees safe, so I would encourage you to come visit us,” says Castro. “At least you can get out of the house a little and have a great meal with so much flavor. But if you are staying home then give us a call and make to-go order, that would help us a lot.”
“We also would like to see our catering options become more popular and well known,” says Vasquez. “We can do drop-off platters at businesses, we can cater weddings, birthday's, etc. and even provide a food truck (Mingo's Latin Kitchen) to provide mobile catering.”
Visit your favorite Katy restaurant online to place an order or call ahead to inquire about their dine-in availability.