Smiling faces and favorite orders returned to the breakfast and lunch counter at Morin’s Restaurant with the state’s lifting the of the ban on inside dining a week ago.
Although the counter looked a little different due to the state’s new social distancing guidelines for restaurant seating, owner John Morin says his customers seem to be adjusting and are glad to be back.
“We have many customers who are used to having their regular seat at the counter, but now that we’ve had to close out every other seat, they can’t all be used, but everybody’s been good about it,” Morin said. “ We’re just so happy to have our customers back inside.”
Since they had to close out every other table and booth in the dining rooms to meet state guidelines, the outside patio and tent dining areas are helping to space things out. Running the multiple dining areas has meant it was time to bring most of the staff back too. “Our staff’s been good, some have chosen not to come back for their own personal reasons, but most are back, they’re very dedicated to us,” Morin said.
The past week revealed it’s getting a bit more challenging to balance the take-out orders with the return of the inside dining rooms, but he believes staying flexible is key to going forward.
“It’s all been a learning curve,” Morin said. “We went from doing just curbside take-out, to now being able to do the dining rooms, the counter and the patio, but we’re figuring it out week-to-week.”
The first week back to using the inside dining areas at Bliss Dairy also called for staying flexible, Amanda Ouellette, a hostess, said. They had to close off a dozen tables inside but the outside patio adds seating and their patrons are adjusting well. “Customers seem very happy with everything and say they appreciate the option of eating inside or outside at the patio. We’re definitely getting busier day by day, and the ice cream business never slowed down,” she said, adding that staff levels are back up near normal. “All workers who wanted to be back are here now.”
It turns out there has been one disappointment in the dining room though, and it concerns one particular booth.
“Some regulars are a little disappointed that the horseshoe booth cannot be used right now,” Ouellette said, adding that because the booth can seat up to 11 people, due to social distancing restrictions it will have to sit empty for now.
There weren’t many empty seats through the week at Mackie’s in North Attleboro as eager customers lined up to return to the downtown breakfast and lunch restaurant when the dining room reopened.
“We’re finally getting out and getting together for breakfast!” exclaimed Jane Kelleher, who was joined by her husband Patrick and long-time breakfast companions Barbara and Lee Jillson to have their first weekend breakfast at Mackie’s in months. Despite their long period away, the kitchen never forgot their standing order. “She didn’t even need to ask,” Barbara Jillson said.
Co-owner and manager Danielle Mackie said the restaurant has been excited to see their regulars back and patrons have been cooperative with the new restrictions.
“We moved tables to be six feet apart, everyone has to wear masks when not at their dining table and when they’re coming in or out. I think it all helps the customers feel comfortable and safe and everyone seems fine with it,” she said.
Bella Sarno, an Italian restaurant on the North Attleboro/Plainville line, needed a few extra days to get things ready and so executive chef and manager Shannon Woodward and his staff welcomed customers back inside over the weekend.
“We missed customers, we missed being busy,” Woodward said. Since their take-out orders and outside patio dinners have been based on a limited menu, he is excited to be once again preparing the full menu. “We run a scratch kitchen,” Woodward said, “so it’s really nice to be back to creating those type of dinners every night, and we know the customers really appreciate it.”
That seemed to be the case for Mara Downie and Charlie Mello who had dinner in the dining room Friday evening.
“It’s such a treat to go out to dinner,” said Downie who had just enjoyed several seafood specialties with Mello. She said it’s not a problem to wear a mask when away from the table, and have big spaces between other diners, but just feels it’s important to get out again. “We felt it’s time, it’s just nice to be out and be around other people,” she said.
Although Bella Sarno’s inside dining is just getting back up to speed, Woodward said more people are calling for reservations in the dining room. “The patio has kept us going and has done really well, but now that we can offer dinner inside, more people are calling each day.”
He believes the new protocols still create barriers though and make it a challenge at times to welcome back customers. “The mask can be the hardest part and limits your ability to really talk to your guests,” he said. Although that seems to be a challenge they will have to cope with for the foreseeable future, he indicated it’s all worth it to see his customers walk through the door again.