The pandemic has been rough on restaurants’ bottom lines, but Lombardi’s made up for some of that on Father’s Day.
The Italian restaurants — there’s one at the Everett Marina and another off Bothell-Everett Highway in Mill Creek — saw about 70% of their normal business Sunday. And that’s while operating at half capacity, as mandated by the governor’s reopening plan.
Lombardi’s reopened June 5 — at 3 p.m. — the same day Snohomish County was OK’d for Phase 2 of the four-phase plan.
Owner Diane Symms didn’t wait for the OK to plan for Lombardi’s to reopen. Her staff had already been working for weeks to meet state and local health and safety guidelines. Tables are spaced to maintain 6 feet of distance. Menus are used once, then recycled. Sneeze guards separate back-to-back booths. Parties are limited to five per table. Staff is required to wear masks. There is no seating at the bar.
When the Lombardi’s in Everett is at full capacity, there are 40 tables and 160 seats, inside and out. At 50% capacity, the restaurant serves 23 tables and 86 seats. Symms feels fortunate that the building has a large patio to allow for additional seating on sunny days.
Symms said that while reopening for dining-in makes financial sense for Lombardi’s, smaller restaurants are waiting for Phase 3 or 4 because they don’t have the room to space tables to meet the 6-foot rule. With such limited service, they can’t warrant opening yet.
Ten of the restaurant’s tables are at back-to-back booths. Staff installed sneeze guards in between each one to keep diners safe. Symms was pleased at how transparent they look. “Sometimes you can’t even tell that they’re there,” Symms said.
Not only do servers and bussers wear masks, they’re washing their hands each time they tend to a table. The restaurant lobby and each host station is outfitted with hand sanitizer dispensers. While hosts and signs encourage customers to wear masks when they’re away from their tables, they aren’t required.
Symms estimates that only 15% of customers are walking in wearing masks. If diners ask, servers will give out any extras. “They’re respectful of the rest of the guests and give distance,” she said. “They don’t seem to mind if you ask them to wait outside.”
The Snohomish Health District has made 566 restaurant inspections since the coronavirus outbreak. But not all of them were tied to COVID-19.
“Generally, restaurant operators are doing a good job at complying with the governor’s proclamations, and following guidance from Snohomish Health District,” spokeswoman Heather Thomas wrote in an email to The Daily Herald. “Most vendors are readily willing to implement adjustments in protocol in order to better protect their customers.”
Thomas added: “While it’s highly encouraged, there is currently no mandate that customers wear face coverings while in businesses, unless it is the policy of that particular business.”
At the Everett Lombardi’s, a sign on the door tells diners with reservations to call from their car to let staff know you’re there. They’ll call you back when your table is ready.
No longer does each table have a candle, salt and pepper shakers and a wine list. Now all you start with is your sanitized knives, forks and spoons, rolled up in a napkin. Single-use menus include a page of beer and wine offerings, but if you want to see the wine list, you’ll have to ask.
Bussers sanitize the tables between uses. Staff also frequently sanitize all high-touch areas, like doorknobs, restrooms and counters.
With takeout and delivery only, Lombardi’s was picking up just about 20% of its normal revenue. Now that the restaurants are reopened for dining in, Symms expected take-out orders to dip, but they haven’t. “Father’s Day, we were really surprised at the quantity of pick-up and takeout that we had,” she said.
Lombardi’s has been able to bring back 70% of its staff. Only managers, sous chefs and the executive chef were working during the coronavirus shutdown. Now that the restaurant has reopened for table service, employees are screened at the start of their shifts to make sure they are OK to serve. “We have an instant-read thermometer, and if any employee made us feel that they weren’t telling us the whole truth about their health, we would scan their temperature,” Symms said. “We haven’t had to do that yet.”
The menu, pared down from before the pandemic, includes Lombardi’s standard Italian fare plus five weekly specials. To protect customers, each paper menu is tossed in the recycling bin after a single use. Symms said they’ve gone through more ink and paper in two weeks than they normally would have in two months, because they’re printing hundreds of menus. “I’ll tell you, that’s been a headache,” she said.
Symms said she was concerned about the social-distancing requirement to enter Lombardi’s through one door and exit through the other. But no one has complained.
“Everybody is in a really good mood,” Symms said. “They’re smiling and thankful, they really appreciate that we’re open and that we are social distancing. It’s been a very positive experience.”