Welcome Back: Restaurants Reopen for On-Site Dining While Facing Challenges, Criticism

Pending State appeal of judges ruling, restaurants scramble to reopen while dealing with supply chain and employee challenges

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Dozens of restaurants are reacting quickly and welcoming back diners after a judge’s order that has allowed them to reopen for on-site service.

Restaurant owners say safety and sanitation protocols remain a top priority, even as public health officials voice concerns over their reopening.

“We know that this is a serious pandemic that is going on and we’re taking it very seriously” said Laura Franco, co-owner of Franco’s Flapjack Family Restaurant.

But reopening is not as easy as setting out plates and silverware. There are serious operational considerations.

“When you have these uncertainties, how much food do you order? You don’t want to order too much because then all of that spoils,” Franco said.

The Franco family has restaurants in Poway, Alpine, and Bonita.

Liz Song, who’s owned Incredible Café in Rancho Bernardo has similar concerns about the food supply chain.

“As soon as I shut down, we have to throw away all the food and all the merchandise that we order, so we don’t want to do that, and then open up again, it’s going to cost double, starting from scratch,” Song said.

And then there’s the challenges of recalling employees, who must decide whether to return to work on a moment’s notice.

“It’s working around people’s schedules, and do we bring our employees back. Some are debating, should they go on unemployment, 'Is it really worth me coming in for a week or so?' and then be told, 'I’m not going to have a job. I’m not going to have my hours I was promised,'” Franco said.

Both Franco and Song welcomed back loyal customers for indoor and outdoor service on Friday. Most customers chose to eat outdoors, but their return was a welcome site for the grateful restaurant owners.

Meanwhile, the return to on-site dining could be short-lived. The state has filed an appeal to the judge's ruling, which could force restaurants to close down, and only offer take-out service.

“I really hope it doesn’t happen, and if they shut us down again, when will be able to get back? It will be a permanent shut down. So I really hope they leave us alone, all these small business owners,” Song said.

“At this point, I am considering staying open. Like I said, we’re not doing anything that I would say is putting other people at risk, but again, it all depends on how things work out,” Franco said.

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