AUSTIN, Texas — We all remember the clink of cutlery, mixed with the murmur of a crowd, as piping meals come out of the kitchen.
With such good memories of eating out at restaurants, it's no wonder so many are hungry for eateries to reopen their dining rooms.
Reopening restaurants across the state sounds good to the Texas Restaurant Association. It said by the end of this month, the COVID-19 pandemic will have cost Texas restaurants $4.2 billion in sales and led to close to 700,000 layoffs.
But when it comes to reopening restaurants on May 1, the state's Strike Force cooked up some new rules to follow.
According to Gov. Abbott's new executive order, restaurants can only welcome back 25% of their dining rooms' capacity. Texas Restaurant Association CEO Emily Williams-Knight said that's a good start.
"We know that 25% is not sustainable, 50% is not sustainable, but we're trying to encourage everyone to take the next couple of weeks to do this right," she said. "From day one, Gov. Abbott has made all of his decisions using health data and with his team of health experts."
And Williams-Knight said the reopening order is a ray of hope to hold onto.
"We need time actually to get our supply chain moving, our employees hired and we won't be able to just do that overnight," she said.
Some of the other guidelines restaurants must follow include:
- using disposable menus for every patron
- restaurant employees serving the food to customers at a buffet
- no tables of more than six people
- tables must be at least six feet apart from other parties at all times
"That's not too bad a problem for a big restaurant, but for a small restaurant it's virtually impossible," said Rob Balon, an Austin restaurant critic.
Balon believes the industry is in uncharted territory, and this will be unlike anything restaurant owners have ever done.
"Gov. Abbott seems to think this is an easy thing to do. It's not," he said.
And Balon thinks if reopening restaurants isn't handled just right, it could be a recipe for disaster.
"I don't know how all this is going to work out because people have to buy into this completely," Balon said. "The restaurant and the customers."
MORE CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE:
- Texas governor, attorney general issue joint updated guidance for houses of worship
- 32 Austin vintage stores won't re-open on May 1, despite Gov. Abbott's executive order
- Testing, contact tracing will be even more important as new COVID-19 cases peak, decline in Texas
- Texas 'stay home' order will expire April 30, Gov. Abbott says
- LIST: Confirmed Central Texas coronavirus cases by county
- All Together ATX raises more than $5M to help community impacted by coronavirus, and the fundraiser isn't over
- 'We are stronger than we think' | Austinite waves flag to raise spirits during coronavirus pandemic