How Jersey Shore restaurants and diners are getting creative with outdoor dining
Stage 2 of the New Jersey reopening allows for restaurants and other food establishments to open up for outdoor dining only right now.
There will have to be enhanced cleaning measures, social distancing and people will be wearing a mask.
While some food establishments are used to having outdoor dining in the summer (in addition to indoor dining) they are facing some challenges right now as are the typically indoor venues that are now getting creative to keep their business open.
At the Marlboro Diner on Route 9 in Monmouth County owner Kara Petrou is running a 1950's style dining experience known as the 'Car Hop'.
"You just sit in your car, give us a call and let us know you're here, we'll bring out menus and you can order from the comfort of your car. We'll then bring everything out on a trey," Petrou said. "It's a good way to bring the community together and bring everybody back to where they like to dine."
The Car Hop experience has been met with positive vibes and smiles across the board.
"The families really like it, the kids enjoy it, our regulars who come in like it," Petrou said. "This is something to give back to the community, we can't do anything without them so it's a really good thing...it's fun."
Even when the day eventually comes when indoor dining will be allowed again by the State and Governor Murphy, you may still very well see the Car Hop continue at the Marlboro Diner.
"I think that if people want to do it, we're 100-percent okay with doing that," Petrou said. "We'll have waitresses come in and out. If people feel comfortable sitting outside and in the nice weather, then we're okay with having it continue."
They are in the process of adding picnic tables to complete the outdoor dining experience.
Meanwhile, at the Four Seasons Diner in Toms River owner Joe Palmisano is giving people a place to sit and eat outdoors with a summertime vibe to it with some palm tree plants in the parking lot.
"We set up some picnic tables and so far people have been very responsive," Palmisano said.
At the beginning of the pandemic though and the subsequent shutdowns and restrictions, there was some doubt on whether the Four Seasons Diner would remain open but the loyal customers made a decision to stay open easier.
"In the beginning I was going to close that first week and thank God I didn't because the people were very responsive," Palmisano said. "We offered a lot of takeout and deliveries and it's been very worth it. We're obviously not at 100-percent but hopeful within the next couple weeks we can get there."
They're also doing everything they can to make sure the dining experience stays a healthy and safe one for anyone who visits the Four Seasons.
"We're social distancing, we're cleaning and sanitizing which is stuff that we do all the time, this is nothing new to us," Palmisano said. "We're just going to keep everyone as safe as we can and give them good food."
At Martell's Tiki Bar and restaurants along the boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach, Assistant General Manager Michael Hull explains that one of the challenges that they've been facing was in the kitchens.
"We have many kitchens here so we had to cut down on how many we can open up because it's just not feasible from the labor standpoint," Hull said. "When you have less clientele you can't open all your kitchens. We have, inside, four kitchens...it's not really logical to open them when we're only serving x amount of people outside so we combined a few menus, scaled down so that we can get the food out quickly, have a little bit of a lower labor cost and still try to make out customers happy."
At their sister restaurant, Martell's Waters Edge in Bayville, Hull explains that they've made adjustments for outdoor dining there as well.
"Aside from the ability to have boats pull up, take their food and go, there's also a new patio area where there's outdoor seating," Hull said. "So in addition to the pier and increased seating, they're going to make out alright, but it's not going to be the same."