Steak 48 chose to leave all the tables inside to create a warm natural barrier. On top of all the non-seated tables, the restaurant placed large, 2-by-2 floral arrangements. The brand also installed hand sanitizer stations, and utilized its collection of semi-private dining suites enclosed with floor-to-ceiling glass.
“It gives a guest the immediate reassurance that as they walk into the dining room and are seated at a table, you could very quickly look to your left, to your right, and know that there isn’t just an empty table that you're not sure whether it may or may not be be seated later,” Badgio says in regard to the floral arrangements. “… It's a very clear message maintaining hospitality, that you're in the right environment, and that we're doing things very conservatively and very carefully with our guests and staff’s safety in mind, and making sure that everyone is still having a wonderful time. In short, it beats the heck out of a traffic cone.”
To avoid crowding at entry, Steak 48 instituted mandatory reservations that are limited to four people or less. Only four are allowed to sit together at a table. If the party includes more than four, then the remainder must sit at a table at least six feet away. The restaurant also isn’t allowing seating at the bar. Customers are required to wear face masks when not seated, and employees must wear both face masks and face shields for additional protection.
It’s a much different world than what consumers are used to, particularly for an upscale dining brand. But Badgio says Steak 48 is able to maintain its elevated atmosphere by sticking to its focus on the totality of the experience and not trying to do too much or go too fast.
This includes operating with indoor dining only. The brand attempted outdoor dining for a short period in Chicago, but Badgio says Prime Steak decided to stick to what it knows best and wait until it was appropriate to deliver its full experience inside as opposed to taking it outside and duplicating an environment that isn’t intended.
“Staying conservative, redesigning the dining rooms with the floral arrangements, and training staff on making hand hygiene all part of their normal process so that they're very, very comfortable and it feels welcoming and warm,”says Badgio on maintaining experiential dining. “I think that if anything, if you're familiar and comfortable, I think people feel better and it’s welcoming. It's a part of hospitality, as is being considerate to understand that everyone is at a different level of comfort. And if we're prepared to provide the utmost of a comfortable environment, then I think that makes people feel at ease and welcomed. Really, that's the start of true hospitality—making people feel at ease and welcome.”
As for the outlook, Badgio says Prime Steak is remaining on track for the rest of the year. The brand is scheduled to open its fifth Steak 48 restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, in mid-December. The executive is optimistic that the restaurants will deliver at a high level in terms of hospitality and quality food.
And so far, customers appear to agree, and that’s the real goal.
“We have been humbly complimented by our guests,” Badgio says. “They have been very appreciative of the additional steps beyond the required guidelines that we've taken—all designed to give great guest confidence and make everyone feel comfortable. And we've had a lot of people go out of their way to say that they appreciate that very much. When the truth is, we appreciate them coming to have dinner with us. They could go out to dinner anywhere they want, and choosing to come to us is a compliment that we do not take for granted.”