Ti Martin and Brennan have stayed busy throughout this break so far, engaging with customers and employees, and also thinking ahead.
To the earlier dilemma, they’ve spent ample hours considering COVID-19’s ramifications on customer service. How will signing the check work? Wine service? “Every single thing we do, we have to relook at,” Ti Martin says.
They’ve already begun working on ways to address “the spirit of hospitality.” One idea is teaching servers and chefs gestures that say what their words and facial expressions cannot. Things like bowing. Tapping their chest. Blowing a kiss.
Ti Martin says she’s even considered pulling inspiration from the old days when reservations would split by smoking and non-smoking. Could there be a room for social distancers and one for non-social distancers?
“I think all things are possible right now,” says Ti Martin, who’s stopped wearing rings because she's had gloves on so often lately.
Regardless of what Commander’s Palace plans for, however, much of it will come down to regulatory measures. What will officials mandate as dining rooms are allowed to reopen? Texas, for instance, plans to open at 25 percent capacity Friday. Georgia has 39 requirements in place, like a limit of 10 customers per 500 square feet.
As of Sunday, 26,773 people had tested positive for coronavirus in Louisiana, up only 261 from the day before. There are 1,701 patients hospitalized and 265 on ventilators. The death toll to date is 1,670.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to unveil the state’s first phase of a gradual reopening this week, as Louisiana’s stay-at-home order expires Friday. He’s already indicated restrictions will loosen.
Commander’s Palace has experience dealing with existential and remarkable events, and what comes next. Hurricane Katrina closed the restaurant for 13 months and cost it $6.5 million, Ti Martin says.
But Brennan rightfully points out a key and unprecedented difference: “[COVID-19] is happening across the world. And with insurance companies, this is a whole different game,” she says.
With Katrina, some regulations included boiling all the water. Restaurants had to serve food only on plastic.
“It was a strange way to operate a restaurant,” Ti Martin says. “And I think that’s where we’ll be now. We’re looking forward to trying to see what service will be like when we reopen.”
Staying connected throughout has been critical, she adds. Commander’s Palace created “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” cocktail parties where the company’s wine guru, Dan Davis, guides guests via Zoom through the finer points of pairing wines with cheese. Past features include French and Spanish themes.