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Restaurant reopenings slowly draw customers back

By Staff | May 14, 2020

As the state of Florida continues to reopen, restaurants impacted by COVID-19 restrictions are making their way back to normalcy at limited capacity.

In Cape Coral, it has been an up and down experience for restaurateurs — some have been quite busy, some not so much and some in-between.

While positive coronavirus cases in Lee County have not “spiked” in recent weeks, some feel people are still being cautious when it comes to communal areas, such as restaurants.

Kristina Amato, owner of Overtime Pizza in Cape Coral alongside her husband Michael, thinks the community is still being a tad cautious when it comes to going out.

While Overtime’s large area allows for 80 patrons at once while still under the 25 percent capacity threshold set by the governor, they have not been overwhelmed with long lines, but have a steady, daily influx along with takeout and delivery.

“Most days, we are not coming close to filling (the 25 percent threshold) just because people are still being cautious,” Amato said.

She reported their pickup and delivery services are still busy and, during the times they were not allowed to seat guests inside, servers were kept on as delivery drivers. They even offer curbside pickup for those who don’t want to get out of their car.

Now, all 60 of Overtime’s employees are back.

Amato said Overtime did receive the Paycheck Protection Program assistance, something for which she was grateful as it helped keep her team intact.

Overtime has hand-sanitizing stations all around their restaurant and Amato takes the temperature of each employee before each shift.

“We’ve been very thankful, everyone has been super healthy,” Amato said. “We’re making sure customers feel comfortable when they come in — and I get it that everyone isn’t comfortable yet. I mean I don’t blame those who are older and immunocompromised.”

Amato offers a brand new mask to every employee before each shift if they would like to wear one as well.

“I feel like I’m doing the responsible thing by making sure my employees are healthy,” Amato said.

She said she is part of the community here in Cape Coral, and wants to make sure the community continues to be a safe and healthy place.

“We live in this community. We live three blocks away from work, so we want to make sure we keep our customers, who are also our neighbors, healthy,” Amato said.

She encourages those who do not feel safe to come out to still try and support their local businesses via takeout or delivery methods.

“If you do not feel safe, that’s OK. I respect your decision,” Amato said. “You can support your favorite local restaurant by ordering takeout, delivery, buying a gift card. There’s no right answer here. We’re all just trying to do our best.”

Metro Diner, a local diner chain serving up classic American breakfast and lunch items in a usually cozy atmosphere is doing all they can to make patrons feel safe if they choose to eat out.

“Cape Coral Metro Diner is happy to welcome back guests around their tables again as we have reopened our dining rooms to serve up hot diner classics like Fried Chicken & Waffles, Cinnamon Roll Pancakes, Chicken Pot Pie and Iron City Meatloaf,” said the Metro Diner Cape Coral team in a statement. “As Metro Diner reopens our dining rooms, our continued commitment to health and safety for their team members and guests remains our top priority.”

Metro Diner will complete a full sanitization of their dining room prior to reopening, with continued disinfection throughout the day, particularly of high-touch surfaces. Tables, seats/booths, condiments, and payment devices will also be fully sanitized between every party. Hand sanitizer will be readily available for both guests and team members. All menus will be disposable.

Social distancing also will be in effect, with a minimum of 6-feet between all tables and no more than six guests per table. Servers will try to maintain a 6-foot distance from guests when it is possible. The diner will have guests wait in their car if preferred and send them a text when their table is ready.

Metro Diner will also adapt employee safety standards.

“The diner will begin each shift with wellness/temperature checks of their entire team, who will wear clean masks and gloves at all times,” the release states.

The diner will train all new employees on these practices as well.

Fathoms at Cape Harbour has added additional outdoor seating, at proper distances, to create more room for patrons

“We’re slowly taking baby steps in order to bring back some normalcy,” said Valeria Zanella-Voisin, partner and marketing director for Fathoms and sister restaurant, Gather.

Inside, Fathoms has distanced its tables and is sanitizing all surfaces as often as possible and especially after a table leaves and a new one comes in.

Their large outdoor space has been a great help in getting up and running again, Zanella-Voisin said.

She said her patrons have been very grateful of their outdoor seating availability and have been respectful of social distancing and good hygiene.

“We have the benefit of having so much outdoor space,” Zanella-Voisin said.

At first, Fathoms did not open the inside of their restaurant. Zanella-Voisin said they wanted to become more familiar and comfortable with this new way of life. Now, they are open inside, and with more confidence.

“We feel more safe and we have everything more under control in terms of staff and how we proceed with all of these guidelines,” Zanella-Voisin said. “Now that we feel more confident, we’ve opened our dining room.”

This weekend, they will return live music as well.

“It’s very important for us to have live entertainment back,” Zanella-Voisin said.”It’s a little bit of normalcy, a sign of things coming back. It’s still not the same, but it’s a little sense of normality. It’s really nice.”

Ovetime Pizza is at 1708 Cape Coral Pkwy.

Metro Diner is at 1625 Cape Coral Pkwy.

Fathoms is at 5785 Cape Harbour Dr.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj