On the one day of the week when many eateries are closed, local restaurant owners grappled Monday morning with how — and if — they’d be able to stay in business.
Even before Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2 p.m. order to shutter all restaurant dining rooms, most customers were staying away as owners devised ways to bolster the pickup and delivery options allowed under the new state restrictions.
Several restaurants announced their closing plans before Wolf made it mandatory, including Pressroom Restaurant, John J. Jeffries, the Log Cabin and Tellus360.
The Pressroom announced a two-week closure Sunday, while Tellus360 announced its closure Monday morning, and John J. Jeffries and the Log Cabin in the early afternoon.
Only a trickle of customers stopped by the Lyndon Diner on Manheim Pike during the usually busy lunch hour, a drop employees said started over the weekend.
“I’m off tomorrow. I’ll come back Wednesday if the doors are open,” one employee said to another behind the nine-seat counter where three customers sat as far away from each other as possible. One of those lunch customers prophetically said he was there for his “last meal” at a restaurant, having stopped in because his business trip to New Jersey was canceled.
‘No one quite knows what to do’
At Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earl, managers spent the morning devising a way to keep the massive buffet at the county’s largest restaurant open, a procedure that was to include requiring employees to wash their hands every 20 minutes and offering single-use gloves to customers along the buffet line.
“This is nothing like anyone of us has ever dreamed of happening. No one quite knows what to do,” said Phil Weaver, co-president and CEO of Shady Maple, which includes the smorgasbord.
Before the order came that closed the buffet that easily serves 8,000 diners on a Saturday, Weaver said they had begun making plans for a food pickup service that will offer hot food-to-go from the smorgasbord. Weaver said late Monday afternoon he plans to launch that service at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Weaver said the pickup service can occupy at least some of the restaurant’s roughly 300 workers.
“We need to retain our employees. Eventually this will all be over and we’ll need all their help,” he said.
More takeout options
In recent days, other restaurants had been working on the takeout options which are now their only way to reach customers.
The Belvedere Inn was among those promoting curbside pickup where customers call ahead with their order, give their credit card, and then arrive and have an employee bring food to their vehicle. For Double C, the new restaurant from the owners of John J. Jeffries, which opened Monday at 220 N. Prince St., curbside pickup was the only option.
The Log Cabin said it will offer "take-out meals upon request. Catered meals may also be available in certain circumstances."
Back at Lyndon Diner, just over an hour before Wolf’s proclamation that would close restaurants, a group of diners at a booth speculated about what it will be like when this is all over.
“Next year we’ll be talking about: remember the coronavirus panic of 2020?” one person said to the table.