On September 8, Philadelphia restaurants welcomed diners indoors for the first time in nearly six months—a move well–timed with the onset of cooler autumn temperatures.
While many Philly residents are (understandably) excited to return to their favorite indoor restaurants, there are a few notable restrictions put in place for restaurants reopening their doors to the public. Capacity is capped at 25%, only four people are allowed at an indoor table (compared to six outdoors), and there's no bar seating available.
Nevertheless, the revival of indoor dining marks a turning point for Philadelphia–area eateries, many of which have struggled to stay afloat over the course of the COVID–19 pandemic. Several restaurants have embraced the opportunity to welcome diners inside, including Double Knot, Little Nonna’s, Harper’s Garden, and Rosy’s Taco Bar, a Penn favorite.
Brandon Bunce, the general manager of Rosy’s Taco Bar, shared his perspective with Street on what Philly's reopening process has entailed.
While the past few months of outdoor dining were a challenging adjustment, Bunce explained that it did come with some upsides, such as bringing in new faces. “It’s actually, like, allowed us to kind of grab guests that we normally wouldn’t have had because there was not as much competition prior to indoor dining opening up,” Bunce said.
Furthermore, the experience of operating outdoor dining amid the pandemic has been helpful as businesses make the transition to indoor dining. “It’s a lot easier now–obviously having already gone through outdoor dining,” Bunce said.
In accordance with city guidelines, Rosy's, like other restaurants, has taken a number of precautions to ensure workers and customers are safe. Some of these include increasing ventilation by opening windows, requiring staff to wear face masks and face shields, and utilizing QR codes to access the menu.
But despite all of the changes that the comeback of indoor eating has brought, one thing that has remained consistent over the past few months is that the future of dining remains largely unknown.
If 2020 has been the year of anything, it's been the year of the unknown. In Rosy's case, their main concern is how lifting restrictions will affect the influx of customers. Bunce elaborated, "I don’t know if we’re gonna be busy. I don’t know if we’re gonna be slower now because there’s more competition because now indoor dining is available. I don’t know if it’s gonna be less ... outdoor and more indoor because of the cold weather."
Almost two weeks into indoor dining, Bunce said the added space has proved a great advantage so far. It's helped Rosy's to accommodate more guests, especially on their busier days: “On the weekends, it’s definitely been a blessing.”
Moving forward, Rosy's–like many other local joints–is most excited for the prospect of welcoming people back. As Bunce said, Rosy’s, which has a strong community following, is looking forward to seeing some of their regulars again. According to Bunce, the Rosy's staff has worked hard to create a bond with loyal customers "They made it warm and welcoming to them to the point where they know exactly who they want to talk to ... and they know what they want to order," he said.
While the famous Philadelphia restaurant scene is not what it used to be, it is slowly making a comeback. “I definitely have seen a little bit more enthusiasm [from] restaurants that I didn’t think were going to be able to survive this entire thing. [They're] finally, kind of, getting the chance to open their doors,” Bunce said.
And while there is a long way to go, with the return of indoor dining, we are beginning to see new hope for Philadelphia's beloved restaurants.