People around the country have been advised to stay in small numbers and are recommended to stay at home to help prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). While this is happening, grocery stores, restaurants and bars have come up with plans to do their best to adapt to the new changes.
Numerous restaurants and bars across Northeast Nebraska have made changes to the way they run as the demand for takeout has increased over the past week, which has helped a little bit with business.
"Our business has been impacted in a very large way. We just started takeout, and our takeout business has continued to increase," Black Cow Fat Pig owner Michael Behrens said.
The Black Cow Fat Pig, The 411 Restaurant and Lounge, the District Tap & Table, along with a few other restaurants, have kept their dinning areas opened for the foreseeable future.
"People know that times are hard, but I want to show passion and something promising, so we want to leave the door opened to show that we are willing to stick it out," The 411 Restaurant and Lounge owner Danny Orwa said. "The majority of my sales comes from dining because we're selling an experience, but now that experience is out the door. The interaction is completely taken out of perspective."
While a few of these restaurants have stayed open to dining customers, they are taking into account social distancing, with staff members having sanitizers on hand for whenever they come into close contact with customers.
"We've asked our staff to wash their hands every five minutes. We have multiple sanitations set up for our staff, so they have sanitizer at their disposal at anytime," Behrens said. "We've even removed a couple tables and our staff knows they can only seat people at certain tables, so we can keep distance between people."
As restaurants move toward takeout only, Orwa wants to know what's the best thing to do next.
"Let's plan on how we are going to rebound. Lets draw a plan for the next few weeks, figure out how to implement the plan, implement the plan and follow through gradually," he said. "The plan right now is to do deliveries and takeout."
If people don't want to leave the house, more than likely the restaurant will promote specials on social media or online. Most restaurants’ information can be found online.
But other restaurants such as Applebee's, Buffalo Wild Wings, Culver's, Big Red Keno and many more around Northeast Nebraska have moved to takeout, delivery, drive-thru or curbside service only.
"Doors are locked during business hours, and we are only doing takeout orders," said Miranda Wieneke, general manager of Big Red Keno.
Doing all of these alternative ways to serve customers allows for restaurants to deep clean so they will be ready to open again when the time comes.
"We've been deep cleaning so when we do reopen, everything will be sterilized and disinfected," Wieneke said.
Bars also have seen a hit in business from the coronavirus outbreak, as Lot 279 closed down everything except for takeout and the space is being used only for private events.
District Tap & Table and other bars in Norfolk saw fewer crowds while St. Patrick's Day this week offered a wake-up call as to where people were going to spend their time.
"The sales and atmosphere reflected a slower day than usual," District Tap & Table owner Andrew McCarthy said. "I expected it to be slower, although it's St. Patrick's Day, so I didn't know how it was going to go."
Coincidentally, the Corona beer was a big hit this past weekend at The O Lounge Bar. Owner Scott Stevens understands if people won't go out to bars.
"I do feel that the coronavirus will affect the bar business along with the other businesses," he said. "I'm actually happy that people are staying at home. What's two weeks of staying at home, for a lifetime of fun to happen again?"
Hy-Vee has shut down its Market Grille restaurant and bar, and stores have begun closing at 8 p.m. Until further notice, Hy-Vee's new store hours will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, to allow employees additional time to clean and sanitize all areas of the store, as well as restock items in highest demand. Operating with shorter hours also will allow employees additional time to care for their families and loved ones.
Hy-Vee also is reserving an hour from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., seven days a week, for customers age 60 and older, expecting mothers and anyone with an underlying health condition(s) that makes him/her more susceptible to serious illness.
"We are extremely concerned about the spread of this virus, and want to respond to our customers who are at higher risk of serious illness by offering them a time where they may feel a bit safer shopping in our stores," said Randy Edeker, Hy-Vee chairman, CEO and president.
Across the nation, stores are seeing products such as toilet paper, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer bought at a high rate. Hy-Vee wants people to know that these products are being restored daily.
"We're asking all of our customers to be considerate about other shoppers and think about the customer behind you, who will have the same needs that you do," said Ivy Sprague, communications manager for Hy-Vee. "Our stores are being supplied and resupplied sometimes multiple times a day, but it depends on the store. Our stores are being resupplied regularly, so people don't need to worry."
Also, all dining areas and bars in all Hy-Vee stores, restaurants and convenience stores are now closed to the public. Food service areas will still operate during their normal hours, offering freshly prepared meal options for carryout only.
In the interest of safety, Hy-Vee is pulling its self-serve areas in all stores, which includes salad bars, as well as bagels and doughnuts, which will now be prepackaged.
"We're certainly keeping up with all of the recommendations from our federal and state health officials," Sprague said. "Everything that we've done so far has been in response to their guidance, as well as our internal health and safety teams. We are all adapting day-to-day."
For Hy-Vee Aisles Online customers, deliveries will now be made by third-party partners like Shipt and Door Dash (where available) to help in-store employees focus on pickup orders and other needs at the stores. Hy-Vee Aisles Online customers may find that their preferred delivery or pickup time isn't available at the moment due to increased demand. Hy-Vee is asking customers who are able to do so to shop in stores so that the available Hy-Vee Aisles Online timeslots can be used for those who are unable to shop for themselves or have been advised by health care professionals to limit their public exposure.
"We know that our customers are facing some very challenging times right now, and we want to do all we can to help them," Edeker said. "We hope this new reserved shopping hour helps our customers feel a bit more secure while we work together as a community to help keep everyone healthy and safe."
There remains no reported positive cases in Norfolk or Madison County at this time, but restaurants and bars are urged to follow the gathering limitations set out by the governor this week.
"The governor has directed restaurant and bar closures, excluding takeout and delivery services, for the Omaha area given more than one reported case of ‘community spread’ transmission there," Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning said. "As we are smart and careful as to how we move about and protect ourselves and others in the community, we also encourage Norfolkans to be creative in utilizing the services and buying the goods we need from our small businesses. Curbside, delivery and gift card options are good examples."