Restaurants Now Open For Dine-In Business, So Where Are the Customers?

Many customers leery of returning, still not ready to risk health despite efforts of restaurant owners

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A week after getting the okay to reopen for limited dine-in service, many restaurant owners are finding customers have been slow to return.

“I thought it would be a little more, but I get it. I get the hesitation for people,” said Marsha Kaminski, who’s in charge of her family-owned restaurant.

Kaminski’s Sports Lounge has been open in Poway for more than 50 years. On a typical Friday, there would be a busy lunchtime crowd. On this Friday, there were three people inside, including Poway resident Nathan Gomez.

“I’m coming out by myself. I do have a family, so I think I would be more hesitant to take everybody out, including my kids. But for now, I'm taking it slow and checking it out for myself," Gomez said.

Kaminski says the restaurant is currently doing about 20% normal dine-in business. Part of her reopening strategy is to make sure customers know the restaurant is going above and beyond public health and safety requirements.

“My message is my place is clean, my place is safe, and it would not be a wise business decision not to follow all the guidelines and go above and beyond,” Kaminski said.

Dine-in customers at Kaminski’s will notice significant changes.

There’s a thermometer at the front entrance, there is tape on the floor to keep customers socially distanced, and plexiglass has been installed in several locations to protect employees and customers. Also, yellow caution tape blocks off access to many tables, which forces the business to operate at 25% capacity. For extra ventilation, fans have been installed and doors are left open.

“But I’m still not getting people to come inside, because they’re concerned. How many people want to be part of the control group. We don’t know what’s going to happen with this. Will it be like 1918, and the second round will be worse than the first round? I don’t know,” Kaminski said.

Kaminski understands it will take time to build customer trust.

“I don’t blame them at all. But I want them to come here, I want them to feel safe, but if they don’t want to come, I get it. I understand it,” Kaminski said.

Luckily for Kaminski’s, take out business has been thriving. Take out business is up more than 70% since the start of the pandemic.

Randy Gallman of Poway is a loyal customer, but he is still not ready to dine-in.

“I am hesitant to do it, just not to be the first, but at the same time, I want to support, especially Poway, since I live here,” Gallman said.

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