Eateries innovate as they adapt to COVID

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

Sitting down to eat at a restaurant looks different these days, as eateries allowed to reopen in St. Louis County last month adjust how they can safely do business during the coronavirus pandemic.

Restaurants could reopen their doors to dine-in patrons at 25-percent capacity May 18, after being required to close to dine-in since March in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the region.

If hospitalizations don’t spike, as of Monday, June 29, restaurants can open at 50-percent capacity. The stay-at-home order that went into effect March 21 in the county and St. Louis city required restaurants to only offer carryout, curbside or delivery.

One restaurant that was eager to open its doors to customers as soon as it was allowed May 18 was Roberto’s Trattoria in Sappington, which has been adhering to the rules set in place by St. Louis County for reopening and also coming up with new solutions to keep customers safe.

Under county guidelines, restaurants can reopen dine-in areas as long as capacity is capped at 25 percent, employees wear masks, have their health checked when arriving at work, and if 6 feet of social distance can be maintained between employees and other employees or patrons. Tables are to be kept 6 feet apart as well, or place Plexiglas guards between them.

Roberto’s opted to place Plexiglas shields between its tables and so far, feedback from patrons has been positive, manager Robert Zanti said.

“Customers seem to love them, they like to feel safe… We’ve taken every step we could to make it as safe as possible,” Zanti told The Call.

The restaurant has also taken additional measures to safeguard the health of both its customers and employees, including installing hospital-grade filters in the air conditioning units and air purifiers.

All employees have to wear masks as well as have their temperature checked upon arrival for work.

“We have sent people home if it’s been too high, but we’ve had no reported illnesses,” said Zanti.

The restaurant is continuing to offer carryout service for those who feel more comfortable with taking food home and because the restaurant is limited to only 25 percent of its capacity.

“We’re just happy to be back and happy to have it as safe as possible,” said Zanti.

See or submit to a list of reopened restaurants and other businesses in South County.