Philly Restaurants React To The Return Of Indoor Dining image


Philly Restaurants React To The Return Of Indoor Dining

Three members of the restaurant community in Philly on their hopes, questions, fears, and frustrations.

After months of doing what they could with just takeout, delivery, and outdoor service, Philly restaurants were allowed to start indoor dining on September 8th at a reduced 25% capacity.

Indoor dining comes with a lot of uncertainties. That’s why The Infatuation & Zagat Stories have teamed up to bring the perspectives of industry workers to the forefront as they process their hopes, fears, optimism, and frustrations in this next restaurant phase.

We’ll continue to update this post with more voices as they come in. If you work in the restaurant industry in any capacity, and you would like to submit your own thoughts on indoor dining, send them to and and we’ll review them for posting here.

If want to support your favorite restaurants beyond dining with them, amplify the work of the Independent Restaurant Coalition and demand federal funding for non-chain restaurants. Check out their site here to send a letter to your representatives and find out more about spreading their message. And, if you do nothing else, please, for the love of democracy, register and make a plan to vote.

Chloe Grigri, Owner of the Good King Tavern and Le Caveau

“We actually decided to forgo 25% capacity indoors for the moment. The sun is still shining, mostly, and the temperatures are still enjoyable for dining al fresco! Our approach has always been to create a happy and safe space for all. Over the last six months, we have done our best to monitor, evaluate, and proceed with caution for our team and our guests. This is no different. We intend to reevaluate once the city moves to 50%, and in the meantime, we are awaiting outdoor heaters to prolong the season, and we are taking steps to prepare for indoor dining - plexiglass and all that jazz.” 9/24/20

photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO


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Sofia Deleon, Owner of El Merkury

“The 25% indoor dining is not going to be a lifeline for us, considering the precautions and added costs that come with having just 2-3 tables, it’s not worth it right now. It feels like a step for people to feel like they’re getting back to normal, except normal does not exist, not for at least a year or so. I keep reading articles that mention people who recently got COVID had dined-in at a restaurant; I would not want to be that restaurant. I would not want to expose my staff.

Right now, we’re continuing to do some donation meals, and preparing to possibly open a second location that operates as takeaway only, as well as working on a retail line. I don’t think there is going to be a ‘back to normal’ for a long time, so all we can do right now is create new sources of revenue - create our own new normal.” 9/16/20

Ana Caballero, Chef and Founder of Proyecto Tamal

“As it relates to the immigrant Mexican and Central American industry workforce in Philly: these folks already went through the initial months of total lockdown with zero income or government support. Outdoor dining has provided a full-time job for some, but for most, it only adds up to a couple days of work a week. I’ve heard dozens of stories over the past five and a half months in the Proyecto Tamal kitchen - people can’t support their families and pay the rent with a part-time paycheck, people can’t send money to family members back home, and people can’t keep draining their hard earned savings indefinitely. The entire community is behind, and it’s terrifying to think what will happen if these jobs disappear again come winter.

In this way, indoor dining at any occupancy level does offer some support, but a surge in COVID-19 cases could rip away the ‘indoor bandaid’ way too easily. Creativity and strategy still needs to be focused on meal takeout during the winter months, and I hope customers support this model enough for restaurants (and projects like ours) to keep the lights on, and to keep those with no other option than to work employed.” 9/21/20

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