As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Eater checked in with Austin’s defining restaurants to see how the pandemic has affected business, service models, and more. Next up in this series: Jesse Griffiths, chef and owner of nose-to-tail, farm-to-table Cherrywood restaurant Dai Due.
Eater Austin: How has COVID-19 pandemic affected business right now?
Jesse Griffiths: Coupled with the typical summer slowdown, business is very sparse right now. Since March, takeout has kept us afloat, but it’s pretty hard right now for everyone. We partnered with Farmhouse Delivery to offer various items from the shop to be delivered to their customers, which has been extremely helpful while our dining room has been closed.
What is the current service model?
We closed our dining rooms in March, and have been open for takeout and in-house delivery, offering a full menu as well as grocery staples. We added patio service in September with limited seating, and will continue offering takeout. We have ceased delivery service to focus on the patio.
We initially wanted to open the patio back in July, but then cases surged and we pushed the opening date. We went through about three rounds of this pattern before we finally felt that it would be safe enough to open the patio with limited seating. The cooler temperatures are a bonus.
Are you planning or thinking about any future changes (due to COVID-19 or otherwise)
We will keep the current takeout model, as I feel it might be somewhat engrained for a lot of people. I think more casual, approachable food will be in demand, so we will have an expanded lunch menu and more deli-type items moving forward. We plan to adapt to the new landscape as best we can without alternating from our basic ethos.
What measures are you currently implementing?
We require all employees to wear masks and also to avoid potential risks when they’re not at work. We have been pretty strict about our safety protocols and have been good, so far. When our patios opened, protocol for guests include:
- We are only seating on our patio, with tables spaced six feet apart, and our dining room remains closed.
- Guests are required to wear a mask at any time they are not at their table. No mask, no shoes, no shirt, no entry. If a guest does not have a mask, we will provide one.
- We are operating as reservations-only for now. We are unable to accommodate parties greater than 10, including children/infants.
- All reservations will have a time limit of one hour and 45 minutes, due to our extremely limited seating and time needed to sanitize tables between parties.
- We ask that guests maintain a six foot distance between themselves and other guests who are not members of their party.
- We will have hand sanitizer available for guests at the bar window upon check-in, at the entry door, and in the washroom.
- Instead of paper menus, we will use a QR code and single- use menus upon request.
- We are not accepting cash at this time.
How has business been so far?
Rough. Up and down, but we’ve had to fight for any business we get. Hoping that the fall is better.
Initially, there was a huge surge of people buying meat, when stores were considered off-limits. That has plateaued significantly, and we are seeing more people order takeout. As grocery stores have become better at curbside, and going back to the store more normalized, our grocery business has dropped accordingly.
Ranchers have been doing well as meat prices and demand surged. Since we don’t deal with commodity variations, we really didn’t deal with surges in pricing.
What are some surprises that you’ve encountered?
The community has been exceptionally supportive, showing us love in ways we never expected. We are grateful for the business, but mostly knowing that our customers value us and understand the importance of supporting us now.
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