The impact of COVID-19 on local restaurants has caused many to adapt to CDC guidelines as well as the wishes of their customers. As the warm weather began to give way to the cold last fall, restaurants that had promoted and even expanded their outdoor dining spaces had to close them. For Scott Plath, co-owner of the Stones Hospitality Group (Cobblestones of Lowell, Moonstones of Chelmsford and Stones #1 Social of Nashua), wiping down surfaces with disinfectants and having his staff wear masks wasn’t enough. Plath, who puts the safety of his staff and customers above anything else, installed three high-efficiency air particulate filtration systems in all his restaurants to combat airborne germs.
As the pandemic forced many restaurants to create an even safer environment for indoor dining, Kim Costello of the 1640 Hart House in Ipswich faced a unique challenge. Costello needed to transform a nearly 400-year-old establishment into a place where customers could dine safely while still enjoy the centuries old ambiance. With $20,000 worth of air filtration systems installed in her restaurant as well as distanced tables, Costello is confident in the 1640 Hart House’s safety. But she says it’s the hard work of staff and support of customers that has attributed to success amid the pandemic, “Our customers have been beyond supportive and extremely generous to staff.” Costello’s staff, whom she calls her “greatest asset,” have reciprocated their guests’ generosity with, she notes, safe and outstanding service.
A yearlong pandemic has caused unrelenting stress for local restaurant owners and their staff. Yet, many of them have shown their resilience and adaptability and have garnered great success despite the setbacks. Pat Lee, owner of The Horseshoe Grille in North Reading has nothing but praise for his staff who helped create a safe environment at his family restaurant. “We’re all trying to make the guests feel comfortable and confident that they’re in a safe environment,” says Lee, whose COVID-19 precautions range from an ionization filtration system to temporary menus. Lee believes that creating a healthy environment for his guests is just “part of our DNA” and he has no plans to relax his standards anytime soon.