It will be a happy Valentine’s Day indeed for many Red Deer eateries, which are already feeling the love from customers who returned to dine-in service on Monday.
Local restaurateurs were thrilled to welcome the return of table service for the first time since a take-out-only order was lifted. The restriction had been imposed by the province as a COVID-19-reducing strategy in early December.
“We are encouraged that people are coming back with a fury,” said Dustin Snider, owner of Earls Restaurant.
Earls had 16 lunch reservations Monday. Although these had to be cancelled after a water pipe burst from the severe cold, Snider has been taking a “ton” of reservations for romantic dinners next weekend. He hopes to reopen the restaurant’s doors on Tuesday.
“We are very excited to get back to serving our customers,” said Snider.
Like many local restaurants, Earls had been “holding on for dear life” for the last couple of months. Considering how much money has to be paid to third-party food delivery services, “it was not sustainable,” he added.
The Granary Kitchen owner Patrick Malkin, agreed that take-out only “was not fun… We were not designed for it… so we’re very happy to be serving customers again.”
Malkin is pleased to see some familiar faces — and to utilize all the space his business had been paying for and not using since early December.
Restaurant tables are spaced out, according to provincial guidelines. Malkin said his staff are counting on customers to be responsible and follow provincial dining-out rules.
Posted signs stipulate no more than six people per table — and all from the same household. Those who live alone can dine out with only two others from their cohort.
Nobody wants to contemplate a third shut-down, said Patrick Guimond, owner of the One Eleven Grill.
Monday’s re-opening to eat-in service left Guimond feeling “good and a nervous all at the same time,” because the future remains uncertain.
But he stressed, “We’re definitely excited to be back at it.”
Business at One Eleven Grill was down to about 30 per cent during the take-out-only stint, Guimond noted.
Although quite a few kitchen staffers were kept on, Guimond is happy to put temporarily laid-off serving staff back to work this week.
He anticipates One Eleven Grill will be very busy on Valentine’s Day as “our weekend is getting quite booked up.”
Andre Lemus, owner of Las Palmeras Restaurant, noted it’s still not business as usual at local restaurants because of capacity restrictions. Las Palmeras will not reopen to in-person dining until Wednesday as it’s now closed on the slower Mondays and Tuesdays.
However, “any dine-in business is better than take-out,” said Lemus, as it strengthens profits and cements customer relations. “It’s something to look forward to.”