Three days after Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order limiting operations of the state’s restaurants, many locally owned restaurants have decided to shut their doors entirely during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Others, though, continue to offer takeout, curbside or delivery in efforts to keep at least some of their workers employed.
At last count, more than three dozen restaurants have closed. They include Quiet Pint Tavern, Fratellis Italian Steakhouse, Canteen Market Bistro, Hops Burger Bar, Willow’s Bistro and Bernardin’s. Closings have been for a variety of reasons, including safety, menu and staffing issues.
Fine-dining restaurants, in particular, have struggled because they are not set up for takeout and much of their menu is not suited to it. Customers getting takeout don’t want a $25 steak or piece of sautéed fish that doesn’t travel well.
Chef Sammy Gianopoulos decided Tuesday to close his three restaurants: Fratellis Italian Steakhouse in Winston-Salem, Three Bulls Steakhouse in Clemmons, and Sammy G’s Tavern in High Point.
“It was a hard conversation with our staff, but we looked at the numbers, and we just couldn’t afford the payroll,” Gianopoulos said. “We couldn’t do the menu we had. We would have to lower our price point and do something like pizza – but other people are already doing pizza. It just made sense to close now, and hopefully we’ll come out stronger on the back end.”
Kris Fuller, the chef and co-owner of Crafted: The Art of the Taco, closed both restaurants, in Winston-Salem and Greensboro, out of concern of the rapid spread of the coronavirus. “We made the decision Monday,” Fuller said. “My concern is we are not reacting fast enough. We have to slow down the exposure rate. Restaurants are cleaner than most places, but we cannot control is the unknown factors — the people coming and going, what are people doing when they are not at work.
"Now we’re cleaning the restaurant and letting staff come through and take food home. What we have left, we’re going to donate.”
Some restaurants have said they are closing temporarily as they rework menus and adjust to becoming a takeout-only business.
Silo offered takeout for two days but closed Thursday. “The takeout did OK, but I needed a break,” said Niki Farrington, who hopes to reopen next week. “When we come back we might have some things off the menu. But we will start replacing those things with family meals — new things that hold up well, like soups, salads, casseroles and stews."
Other restaurants carried on, serving customers as best they could.
Many, like Foothills Brewpub, have switched to curbside only, choosing to keep customers out of the restaurant in hopes of minimizing any kind of exposure.
“Wednesday was not good, yesterday was very good and today has been so-so,” said Foothills’ chef Shane Moore.
“We’re down to our core managers now. It’s me and my sous chef doing all the cooking, and the front-of-the-house managers are doing all the packaging.”
He said he has been offering the full menu this week to reduce his inventory. After that, he will focus on family meals such as tater-tot casserole, baked spaghetti and mac’n’ cheese. “We’ve also been selling a lot of fried food,” Moore said. “People are really going for comfort food now.”
Foothills also is selling canned and bottled beer, and it will fill growlers from its taps, but they must be clean growlers supplied by the restaurant. Customers cannot bring growlers from home. “We’re trying to figure it out day by day, but we want to be safe,” Moore said.
Some food businesses are taking novel approaches.
Winston-Salem Wine Market offered deliver pizzas from nearby Brixx Oven Pizza along with its own wine deliveries.
Putters Patio & Grill was selling its steaks — along with wine and beer — uncooked, for people to take home and cook themselves.
And 1703 Restaurant was selling household items, including paper towels and toilet paper, along with hot meals to go.
A couple of Winston-Salem residents have been busy this week keeping track of which restaurants are doing what.
Lea Metz, a local marketing and fundraising strategist, started compiling a list even before Cooper ordered the closing of dining rooms. She then reached out to blogger Timothy Beeman to help her collaborate. "We now have over 220 entries, and I know we're missing some," Metz said Friday.
The list is set up as an alphabetical spreadsheet. It includes restaurant phone numbers and hours, and whether they are doing curbside or delivery, and whether they offer gift cards. For the ones offering delivery, the spreadsheet notes which ones use such apps as Grubhub or DoorDash. It also lists restaurants that have closed.
Metz said she created the list partly because she loves to eat out.
"Me and my wife usually eat out a couple times of week, and we really like going to craft breweries," she said. "I want people to take precautions but also support local businesses."
The list is set up as a Google document that people can access here: https://tinyurl.com/vy85r4z.