Indoor dining brings normality to San Jose restaurants
Restaurants that return to indoor dining can breathe easier when customers come back inside and some normalcy takes shape.
Before the pandemic, Anabel Nguyen and Alex Huynh’s family restaurant had not taken a break for 25 years. But in March 2020, they closed for a month.
“It was really stressful for all of us,” Nguyen said. Since 1996, the family has operated the Pho Y # 1 noodle house in northern and eastern San Jose seven days a week. “Our sales fell by over 90% and a lot of people were afraid to come to work.”
Family members have stepped up in the coming months, coming up with creative solutions to serve customers in the pandemic, including catering, Huynh said.
The Pho Y # 1 Noodle House is once again open for indoor dining after offering alfresco dining and take-out for most of the past year.
Santa Clara County has been below the orange “moderate risk” level since March 24, allowing indoor meals to resume to 50% capacity. Since then, more and more restaurants and cafes have reopened, but not without challenges. San Jose is No. 5 among metropolitan areas in the United States for business closures since the start of the pandemic.
According to the National Restaurant Association, 110,000 restaurants across the country have closed due to the pandemic.
While local restaurants are currently operating at 50% of their indoor capacity, they will be able to operate at 100% of their capacity on June 15 if the vaccination supply is sufficient and cases of COVID-19 remain low. The date marks 15 months since the start of the pandemic in California, when restaurants were one of the first industries to shut down.
“Increasing indoor dining is really big for California restaurants,” said Sharokina Shams, spokesperson for the California Restaurant Association. “Restaurants need to eat indoors to break even, bring back their employees, and thrive.”
For Paper Moon Cafe, which opened in downtown San Jose last June, every step is a learning experience, said owner Jerry Wang. The cafe opened last week with a reduced capacity of six people.
“As local businesses try to survive and stay above the water, many large businesses have taken the opportunity to expand,” Wang said. “It’s just a small change to see if we can keep up.”
Like Pho Y # 1 Noodle House, running a small business during the pandemic meant adapting to the needs of the moment. During the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, Wang delayed the cafe’s opening date out of respect. Baristas handed out free drinks to protesters and connected with local self-help groups, embracing the idea that “customer service is community service and community service is customer service,” Wang said.
In November, barista Arlene Garcia took it a step further by collaborating with San Jose Community Fridge to open a “take what you need, leave what you can” refrigerator in the cafe filled with food, produce and items. toilet.
San Jose artist Jorge “j.duh” Camacho painted the words “Harsh times, harder people” on the front glass of the Paper Moon Cafe. It’s a phrase that has resonated with many local and family businesses throughout the pandemic.
“As a family, we help each other and we can do everything together,” said Nguyen. “We are really strong and determined people. This restaurant is our baby and we weren’t going to close permanently.
At Los Dos Compadres in West San Jose, the five employees banded together during the pandemic to serve take out and fulfill orders through Postmates and Door Dash. Business has been slow and the restaurant has reduced its hours, said manager Cesar Angulo, but no employees have been made redundant.
The restaurant opened last month and Angulo said each day gets busier, especially during lunch.
“It was so nice to see customers come in,” said waiter Diana Abila. “I was so happy. We have the best Mexican food and we want to share it with people.
At the start of the pandemic, there were days when Abila only worked three hours. But she said she was happy to spend more time at the restaurant now that business is picking up.
Like Abila, Wang said reopening the seats inside also boosted morale.
“The fact that we have customers again brings us back to what it really is to be a barista,” he said.
For Paper Moon Cafe, reopening and returning to normal is the time to reinvent coffee as a community space. Wang said he is looking to showcase more local artists on the cafe walls and invite small business owners to host pop-ups on weekends.
For decades-old restaurants in San Jose, seeing familiar faces inside brings joy and reminds workers of the community they are a part of and to which they contribute through their food and service.
“It was heartwarming to see our regulars again,” said Huynh. “Last year we didn’t know whether we would close or not. But to see people coming back, we are really grateful.
Contact Patricia Wei at [email protected]