As part of our Stories from the Front Lines series, Restaurant Hospitality reached out to restaurateurs to share their experiences during the coronavirus crisis. Here, Frank Ostini, owner, chef and winemaker at The Hitching Post II Restaurant and Winery in Buellton, Calif., shares his story.
Two months ago I would have said that in 68 years the Hitching Post Restaurant had seen everything. We've been through ups and downs and moved past every challenge, be it economic or environmental. Each time we come out stronger, having learned and grown in experience and intuition. But nothing compares to what we all face now.
When all of this started in California, we listened to our leaders, who reacted with intelligence and concern for public health. In just a few days we went from practicing distancing at half capacity, to closure of our indoor spaces.
We never thought to close completely, as our team and customers are too important for us to abandon.
We had takeout experience, delivering lunch by tricycle to the Hitching Post Wine Tasting Room next door. We immediately morphed into a takeout restaurant at a fifth of the volume, and hope to grow from there.
Through good times or bad, we are guided by our mission and ideals. We respect the health, safety, and happiness of our staff and customers, and strive to provide quality food, good value and hospitality. We encouraged the ill to stay home by adding 14 more sick days. We condensed our lunch and dinner menus into one, and launched an online ordering platform. We started new sanitation protocols of taking temperatures twice daily, logging our hand washing four times an hour and adding face coverings, sneeze guards and hand sanitizers, all to protect our team. We have curbside delivery, and sanitize after each interaction. We are furthering our mission by providing quality food to our loyal customers while protecting our precious staff.
With sadness, we see the ravages of this virus, so we continue to preach sanitation, distancing, sheltering and face covering. Where this goes nobody knows. This virus is the ultimate equalizer. While humbled, I am immensely proud to be a part of our culturally important restaurant industry that will thrive again. This recovery may be measured in years not months. We will all need to adapt and evolve, but together we will recover to be stronger and better for it.