DC Restaurants Throw Open the Patio Doors

Washington D.C. restaurants hit a milestone in late May, when those with approved outdoor spaces, such as patios and rooftops, were allowed to welcome customers back. See Also: Innovo Picks Up LIC Warehouse for $34M

The move comes as D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser lifted the district’s stay-at-home order on May 29, sending D.C. into Phase I of its reopening plan with Phase II tentatively scheduled for June 19. 

In Phase II, restaurants can serve indoors, but must maintain a maximum of 50 percent occupancy as determined by their business certification and space all tables at least 6 feet apart.

 Meanwhile, neighboring restaurants in Northern Virginia are allowed to use sidewalks and parking spaces for outdoor dining as well as any patio and rooftop space.

Immigrant Food, a fast-casual restaurant at 1701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, opened its patio on Friday for outdoor dining. The restaurant is known for its advocacy efforts, such as offering an engagement menu where patrons can support immigrant causes.

“We continue to take the strictest safety precautions for our employees and customers,” Tea Ivanovic, Immigrant Food’s director of communications and outreach, told Commercial Observer. “Our patio tables and chairs are set up according to Mayor Bowser’s restaurant guidelines. No reservations are required, and we’ve placed QR codes outside where you can check out the menu and order directly on your phone, allowing for contactless ordering. As always, anyone in contact with food or packaging is wearing masks and gloves.”

As a downtown fast-casual restaurant targeting the professional crowd for lunch and happy hour, the restaurant felt the impact of the stay-at-home orders early, even before the order went into effect. 

“For example, many of our customers are World Bank employees, who received a note in late February suggesting they work from home,” Ivanovic said. “We temporarily closed, but our entrepreneurial, immigrant, employees suggested we reopen for contactless delivery and takeout. We did so by employing back some of our own staff to work hourly or on commission—including former cashiers-turned-drivers through our own ordering system.”

Since no one knows for sure what the “new normal” will look like, Ivanovic understands the restaurant has to be creative and adaptive with its business model.

“For example, our focus will remain on growing our delivery and takeout business, virtual events will be here to stay for a while, and our Engagement Menu, where people can engage directly with immigration-related causes, has moved to a weekly Saturday newsletter,” she said. “This is a difficult time for the service industry, especially for small restaurant businesses, and we are learning and adapting every day.” 

Jennifer McLaughlin, owner of Virginia’s Caboose Brewing Company in Vienna and Caboose Commons in Fairfax, said she consolidated both operations into the latter location, and pivoted to curbside and delivery service. She also launched a market for grocery and pantry items that helped sustain the business.

“Because we stayed open during the quarantine, we’ve had the advantage of time to learn and live best practices as we geared towards reopening,” she told CO. “Even with [the Center for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines, it’s easy to underestimate the hours and logistics planning that goes into a safe reopening. We have two very different locations in terms of space, so we are grateful that we’ve had this time with our team to prepare and understand what works and what doesn’t.” 

Caboose Commons was using GoTab for contactless ordering and payment before the pandemic, so the browser-based mobile ordering platform helped everyone adapt quickly for curbside and delivery, and it has capabilities that are making the Phase I reopening and beyond possible.

“Our chief concern is the safety of our team and our customers,” McLaughlin said. “Phase I for our locations is outdoor-only seating. In addition to touchless ordering, we have implemented a rigorous cleaning protocol that includes sanitizing tables between guests, cleaning bathrooms hourly, and cleaning equipment and surfaces with a higher frequency. Our staff is wearing masks and gloves and continuing to wash their hands frequently.”

The restaurant has also spaced out tables to comply with proper social distancing, propped doors to reduce touching surfaces, and hand sanitizer is available to all guests upon entering the building. Guests are also required to wear masks when they are not eating or drinking. 

Espita DC at 1250 9th Street NW, has reopened its patio for contact-free dining. 

“We don’t intend to open back up for full service until there is a vaccine,” said Josh Phillips, general manager of the popular Mexican restaurant. “Patio business has been strong. It’s still something we’re figuring out. There are some tech changes we are making, but overall, it feels very much like dining in Mexico to us as most of our favorite restaurants down there have outdoor dining rooms.”

Of course, not every restaurant has decided to reopen. For instance, Andrew Dana, co-founder and CEO of Call Your Mother at 3301 Georgia Avenue and Timber Pizza at 809 Upshur Street NW, are only open for carry-out currently. 

“We really want to see how Phase I goes before we offer any outdoor or dine-in seating,” he told CO. “We believe that maintaining some stability for our staff and our guests will go a long way right now. We’re fortunate that our sales have been relatively on par with our normal numbers, despite a pause in areas of revenue like farmers markets, dine-in and catering. The community has come out in droves to support us during a difficult time, and we couldn’t be more thankful.” 

Plus, not everyone has the space to open outdoors. Danny Lledó, owner and chef of Xiquet DL at 2404 Wisconsin Avenue, noted when the dining room first closed in March, it took more than a week to turn operations to takeout and deliveries and it went from 19 employees down to four. That remains the case since there’s no patio seating options for him.

 “We will reopen our dining room when the D.C government announces the beginning of Phase II, and we will continue to operate carryout and deliveries most likely until everything is at 100 percent back to normal,” he said. 

Judging by the numbers of people reported to have gone out to eat this past weekend, restaurants look to be on the right track back to business.

By Keith Loria June 10, 2020 1:43 PM

Tap Room Playbook: Check Your Experience

Tap Room Playbook Episode 2: 

When you really think about it, with everything managers need to do in a tap room, the hospitality aspect is often overlooked.

Watch Now →
Tap Room Playbook: Kick A** Brands

Tap Room Playbook Episode 3: 

The best breweries pay attention to what their brand stands for. How do the best brewers bring their brand to life?

Watch Now →

Situated “in the heart of it all, yet tranquil enough to make you feel away from it all too,” The Limelight Hotel Snowmass offers 99 hotel rooms and 11 residences, as well as footsteps-to-gondola access in winter and summer — right in the middle of Snowmass Base Village.

The Situation

Especially over the last few years, the Limelight Hotels IT team had witnessed a significant shift to contactless technology in the hospitality industry. After evaluating friction points in the guest journey, aligning with modern technology platforms in their restaurant was determined to be an effective way to offer elevated contactless dining experiences to their guests while also evolving their technology platforms to continue to support long-term company goals. Limelight Hotel partnered with GoTab to provide an enhanced on-demand dining experience on par with the brand’s reputation for exceptional guest service.

The Solution

Reducing Staff Touch Points Without Sacrificing Guest Experience

Guests are now able to begin a tab from their room or the property’s restaurant by scanning a QR code, texting a link to friends or family members on the ski slope to add in their orders, then meeting up together at the patio or lodge to enjoy their meal and après ski festivities without interruption. By streamlining tasks like inputting orders and processing payments, this eliminates friction for hotel staff and allows them to focus on delivering renowned guest service for a memorable experience. Since partnering with GoTab, Limelight Snowmass has consistently seen higher check averages and sales.

“We found the Point of Sale platforms we were looking at offered the guest and staff limited opportunities to further reduce touch points or improve the traditional restaurant experience. The GoTab platform enabled the guest to take an active role over the flow of their experience while simultaneously reducing touch points and further streamlining restaurant operations.”Nick Giglio, Manager of Hotel IT Operations, The Little Nell Hotel Group

According to the Limelight Hotels team, some of the other platforms that were evaluated were either missing some of the pieces they were looking for, had weak customer support models, or had little willingness to develop integrations to existing hotel platforms already in place. To that end, GoTab integrated with cloud-based platform, Infor. Together, GoTab and Infor are providing dynamic solutions to support central, efficient service across hotel amenities and deliver exceptional guest experiences.

“Previously, guests would call down to the restaurant to begin an order from their room or while they were out enjoying the ski slopes. Using GoTab, guests can now place orders from anywhere on the resort, giving them the on-demand service they want without interrupting their day. GoTab empowers us to give control to the guest, reducing touch points and streamlining overall restaurant operations, making Limelight Hotel the resort of choice for Snowmass.”Nick Giglio, Manager of Hotel IT Operations, The Little Nell Hotel Group

Since introducing GoTab, The Limelight Hotel has seen a consistent level of upsells and items sold per check resulting in additional revenue capture. They have been able to maintain service levels in their restaurants during periods when there was reduced staffing available without significantly diminishing the guest experience.

The Benefits

Eliminate Phone Orders – Take Orders from the Slopes. Guests can start a tab from their room or on the mountain without interrupting the flow of their day.

Future-Proofed Technologies – Delivering elevated contactless ordering via integration with the Infor hotel management platform.

Eliminating Friction in the Guest Journey – Maintaining service levels during periods of reduced staff without diminishing the guest experience.

  • Eliminating Friction in the Guest Journey – Maintaining service levels during periods of reduced staff without diminishing the guest experience.
  • Eliminating Friction in the Guest Journey – Maintaining service levels during periods of reduced staff without diminishing the guest experience.
  • Eliminating Friction in the Guest Journey – Maintaining service levels during periods of reduced staff without diminishing the guest experience.
  • Eliminating Friction in the Guest Journey – Maintaining service levels during periods of reduced staff without diminishing the guest experience.

Request a Demo

Ready to experience GoTab for yourself? Sign up for a free demo and get qualified to receive a complimentary meal on us!
Request a Demo