In April last year we launched a documentary series called ‘Too Small to Fail’ on our YouTube channel (#Cheetah4You). We followed the true stories of chefs, restaurant owners and foodservice industry workers and shared their message of strength and of hope.
Now, with over 23 million people having received at least one dose, and 45.3% of the population fully vaccinated, California restaurants are ready to see the end of COVID restrictions.
Seeking inspiration in adjusting to a new normal, we checked back with some of our favorite restaurants to see where they are now. We hope their stories in this Year in Review will serve to inspire restaurants all over the Bay Area. But first – here’s what the end of COVID restrictions means for your restaurant.
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Managing End of COVID Restrictions at Your Restaurant
June 15 will see the end of COVID restrictions. Capacity and distancting restrictions will be lifted. It has been a long wait and only possible thanks to a powerhouse effort by government, communities and local businesses. We are extremely excited to support our customers in welcoming diners back to the tables.
Starting today, we’re back to regular pre-COVID capacity limits, and no physical distancing is required. Simple as that. As far as masks go, the guidelines state that masks in restaurants are not required for those who are fully vaccinated but are definitely mandatory indoors for those who are not.
To help restaurant owners navigate this tricky situation, the California Department of Public Health notes that you are within your rights to have a method that verifies if guests are indeed vaccinated. This in order to determine whether they are required to wear a mask. Alternatively, you can require all guests to wear masks when not seated. And of course, no one can be prevented from wearing a mask if they choose to.
Take a moment to decide which part of your staff will keep wearing masks, if any, and communicate your reasoning to them. You will want to balance between making guests feel comfortable and keeping everyone safe.
If you do decide to verify vaccinations, provide signed information about the official requirements and allow guests to self-attest prior to being seated. This will help reduce unnecessary friction.
Remember, at least 15% of the population remains unvaccinated as children under 12 are not yet eligible. This may be the end of COVID restrictions but many can still contact and spread the virus, and variants are still evolving. Maintaining a calm and joyful atmosphere is key while continuing to be vigilant.
Operational Considerations Regarding the Labor Shortage
While restaurants are preparing for reopening, they are also facing an unprecedented staffing shortage. To help through the crisis, Cheetah recently launched Just in Time (JIT): a new pilot program that provides your restaurant with fresh-cut, trimmed, rinsed, cut, and otherwise processed produce and meat products.
As you prepare your restaurant to the end of COVID restrictions, JIT enables restaurants to save precious hours in labor costs and to get through reopening with reduced staff. Learn more about how it works and about the participating suppliers here.
A Year in Review - Where Are They Now
Looking back, every one of these small businesses could have given up. It was the easy way to go. But as every eatery is an establishment in the community, closing shop would have a ripple effect.
We hope these phoenix stories serve as inspiration to keep going as we see the end of COVID restrictions.
Pangea is a fine dining experience that brings together the best of the chef’s eclectic experience. From Cajun crawfish to Jamaican Patties, Argentinian steak to Coq au Vin, a glance over the menu leaves the mouth watering.
Chef Kev Ashade started in the business when he was 12, attending hospitality school and working for free at restaurants. In an emotional episode of Too Small to Fail, we learned how he took a leap of faith and put all his savings into opening the Pangea Restaurant, Bar and Catering in Dallas, Texas, that employed more than 60 people prior to the pandemic.
When COVID broke the business was shut down overnight. Kev gave all the produce to his employees and switched off the lights in March. But not for long.
Chef Kev quickly regrouped and launched ‘Curbside Catering’ which was overwhelmed with pickup and delivery orders. On June 11th 2020 Pangea reopened, and if their reservation platform is anything to judge by, Texan’s have been missing Chef Kev’s Surf and Turf delicacies.
If that wasn’t enough, Chef Kev surprised us by opening his new spot, Pangea Eats and Cafe, mid-March, moments after the catastrophic winter storm hit Texas. Clearly COVID has been an inspirational time for Chef Kev and he continues making waves in the local culinary scene.
Pokitrition is a group of local health eateries in Arizona that have given new meaning to freshness with their raw, ‘never frozen’ ingredients.
After returning from Hawaii, Jimmy and Anita couldn’t find the fresh nutrition bowls they had experienced on the island. So, with a sea of hope and bundle of inspiration, they launched the first Pokitrition in 2017 in Phoenix. Their legendary Sushi-Burrito and Hawaiian Poke Bowls are now fabled across the state.
When the pandemic caused lunchtime crowds to vanish, Pokitrition’s main revenue stream dried up and supporting employees and their families became first priority. They decided to keep going and focus on deliveries and pick-up.
Vision and hard work paid off and Pokitrition is now emerging from the pandemic with all three locations, Chandler, Phoenix and Scottsdale running at full capacity and offering catering too.
Feast from the East
If you’re hungry in West LA, Feast from the East’s famous Chinese Chicken Salad will probably be on your top 5 cravings. Founded in 1981 by Suzanne Toji, this Asian fusion diner has been at the same spot for 40 years and many of the original menu items are still available.
Suzanne started the restaurant with just a take-out service after changing tack from a career as a librarian. In the episode on her from April 2020, there was an air of ‘back to the origins’ optimism with only COVID-safe takeout and delivery. They had done it before and were determined to triumph through this too.
Feast from the East pulled through the pandemic with bravery. Loyal customers and their families spread the word and people were literally living off Feast from the East. Business is picking up and as California puts an end to COVID restrictions this week, they will be welcoming hungry customers back to dine-in.
Flapper's Comedy Club
Dave Reinitz and Barbara Holliday started Flapper’s Comedy Club in 2008 in Burbank California. Risking everything to get the club going – including Barbara’s house – they ended up not just creating a club, but a comedy Mecca.
Pre-pandemic, Flapper’s used to host 8-10 shows a night. In contrast to most comedy establishments, they also have a fully fledged restaurant and guests come early to eat and be entertained. When the club was shut down due to COVID-19, their 51 employees became the no.1 concern and they explored different options to keep the wheels turning.
For Dave and Barbara it’s all about bringing together the community. They began broadcasting their comedy acts and classes online, including comedy for kids, and even set up a drive-by art gallery. Food delivery focused on making sure meals got to seniors in need.
The giggly duo are now gearing up for a grand reopening on June 15, and some shows are already sold out.