Despite all the uncertainty that accompanies dining out in a pandemic, many restaurant owners are forging ahead with dine-in service and attempting to do so in as safe an environment as possible. One of those restaurant owners is Dave Green of The Select in Sandy Springs, who has reopened his restaurant for dine-in service, takeout, and patio service, with the restaurant filled at about 50% capacity.
With its sweeping, luxe interiors and chic cocktails, The Select is one of those restaurants where it’s equally about the ambiance as it is about the food. A part of the new Sandy Springs City Springs development, The Select has been making a name for itself in the community with rave reviews from diners and food critics alike: “We’ve become a little bit of a neighborhood place… it’s a destination location from people who live far away because they’ve heard our story. We’ve been really fortunate, we’ve been received super well,” said Green.
Now The Select has been back in action for a few weeks, with most of his staff called back to work, though most at greatly reduced hours, which allows them to still collect some unemployment benefits. In this new normal, employees are given temperature checks before they clock in, with policy being that if an employee has any of the COVID-19 symptoms, they are not permitted to come into work. All employees are also required to wear masks: “They’re covering their noses and their mouths entirely… when they take one pair of gloves off, they put another [pair] on… Everyone is wearing masks. Everyone has been trained. We have an open kitchen, so you can see it,” said Green.
Green is also ensuring guests are symptom-free before dining in: “What we’re doing outside, is that [before] people come in, we are taking their temperature and then we sanitize their hands. So before they ever enter the ‘envelope’ we are doing a certain amount that we know we can do,” said Green.
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Booths, chairs, tables, tablecloths, and even each table’s flower vase are sanitized between customers, and customers are given a single-use paper menu or are welcome to look up the menu on their phone.With regards to potential COVID-19 spread from restaurant A/C and ventilation, Green feels grateful for The Select’s, high 16 foot ceilings where the air from their air conditioning is not blowing air directly in customer’s faces.
When asked what he would do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19, Green said he would not allow the employee to come back into work until cleared by their doctor and said he would contact the Georgia Department of Public health and/or the CDC for further guidance, though he did say shutting down for at least a week or mandating tests from his employees would likely be the minimum that he would require.
Aside from these new safety requirements, in an effort to provide a respite from the stress of the pandemic, Green is also trying to make the dining experience as comfortable as possible. He has installed plexiglass dividers to act as sneeze guards, created using The Select’s Service Manager Charles Brown carpentry skills, and has his staff changing their gloves frequently, with changing glove colors, so that the diners are aware everytime the staff has changed their gloves.
Green chose to go the dine-in service and patio route, rather than delivery route, partly out of a desire to serve those who specifically prefer to eat out at this time: “What does our very close neighborhood, what do they need right now? A lot of people talk about the amount of stress they are carrying… a lot of them are talking about the same thing, they’re talking about how stressful it is to stay home all the time, about how they want to see their friends, about how they want to be normalized. There is a part of our community, some percentage, and it’s somebody that wants to be served. And if your nature is to be in the hospitality industry, you want to serve them… you’re passionate about that. That connection you get to have with everybody is super meaningful. If you think about it, you have your favorite restaurant, you know them, you have a relationship, you share with each other that segment of your life, it’s everything… that sense of community, we all just crave that as human beings.”
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Despite all this, Green recognized that there is risk inherent in dining out during the pandemic, though he believes the restaurant industry is more poised to allow for social distancing and sanitation than other places like grocery stores: “We deal with germs all the time, we are trained with keeping things cleaned, keeping things at the right temperature. We live in that world, so we are very, very capable. We have the ability to apply those skills to the community coming back out. Otherwise, what is the alternative? Everyone is going to the same grocery store, touching things… you can’t imagine it being safe… when you have thousands of people going through the same thing all day every day. There is so much cross contamination. ”
Ultimately, however, Green believes that, “I think life is a risk. How do you apply those risks, about making the decision to open? There’s a high level of certainty that we’re doing everything that we can… but of course, in relationship to what? In relationship to employees not being able to feed their families very soon, by July [when the $600 unemployment bonus ends]? if all these people are going to get off unemployment by July, and not going to have jobs, what are they going to do then? We need to be normalized by then… We need to do everything we can, for everyone’s sake and I don’t think that gets enough press,” said Green.
The Select is open for patio service, dine-in service, and takeout from 5PM – 10PM, Sunday through Saturday.