Working in a restaurant during a global pandemic

My dad has owned a restaurant in New Jersey for eight and a half years, and I have worked there as a hostess for one. On March 17, he was ordered to close his doors and has only been able to serve takeout since then, just like all other restaurants in the state.

Since then, I have been working every weekend to help serve takeout orders to customers. It actually isn’t too much of a change from what I typically do as a hostess. The only difference is that I’m not walking people to tables, but I still stand at the front desk and answer the phones. I am also used to handling takeout orders when hosting, but never at this volume. The most I’ve probably ever had in one night was about ten, and now I receive that many in about 20 minutes.

Sometimes there are so many orders we run out of space to tape up the receipts.
Photo: Riley Sweitzer

We are very lucky that my dad’s restaurant has very loyal customers. Each weekend is topping the previous in sales. Many guests are ordering every weekend or even every day, which is greatly appreciated. We have also received some very generous tips from regular customers. Some of our family and friends have even ordered to show their support.

While we love the support, the number of orders can get quite overwhelming at times. During the dinner rush, from 5-7 p.m., I barely get a free moment to breathe. My ear is either permanently attached to the phone taking orders, or I am constantly running out to cars at the curb to drop off bags of food.

Our bags of takeout food just sit on a table, waiting to be picked up.
Photo: Riley Sweitzer

The precautions we are required to follow have been constantly changing as well. First, we had to make the switch to only serve food via takeout. Then we started thoroughly sanitizing everything: the front desk, the phone, the door handles, the pens customers sign receipts with, and of course, our hands. Now all employees are required to wear masks at all times. We are even required to enforce all customers to wear masks when coming into the restaurant to pick up their food, or else they are not allowed in. This helps to protect those of us working and also any other customers in the restaurant picking up at the same time.

Overall, the takeout business has been going well for us. Of course, this is not the business we want to be doing this time of year, especially because May and June are the busiest months for us. But everyone is being very supportive of this small business and luckily, we are able to stay afloat through the takeout business, unlike some other restaurants.

Before my dad and I were able to obtain masks, we had to wear bandanas.
Photo: Riley Sweitzer

This is a difficult time for everyone and has taken a lot of adjusting. Try and order takeout sometime to help support your local businesses during this time.

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