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Paper plates and sanitiser stations: Australia’s new-look restaurants

Restaurants and cafes are going to do things a little differently as coronavirus restrictions ease. Photo: TND
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Want to share the pepper? It’s a habit you’ll have to shake.

Instead say hello to sanitiser stations and single-use menus.

They’ll be a part of the big changes coming to your favourite restaurants and cafes as coronavirus lockdown restrictions are gradually lifted.

From June 1, Victorians will join the rest of Australia by being able to eat and drink inside restaurants, cafes and pubs again.

These venues will be able to host up to 20 people in an enclosed space, with that number set to increase to 50 from June 22, and to 100 during the second half of July – if the coronavirus stays under control.

Tasmania was the latest state to ease restrictions on hospitality venues on Sunday.

The Holiday Isle’s changes mean cafes and restaurants, including those in pubs, clubs, hotels and RSLs, can now seat up to 10 people at a time.

Bars remain closed for now.

Safety first

Many restaurant, cafe and pub owners welcome the loosening of restrictions, but there is also enormous pressure on them to get it right.

A second wave of outbreaks might lead to another round of strict lockdown measures, which some businesses won’t survive.

This is why operators like Matt Lanigan, managing director of Lucky Penny cafe in Melbourne, is going the extra mile.

“As you walk in (to Lucky Penny), there will be a sanitiser station, and as you sit down at your table, staff will come over and sanitise your hands,” Mr Lanigan told The New Daily. 

“Tables and seats will be sanitised again as soon as customers leave.”

Lucky Penny cafe managing director Matt Lanigan said his staff will wipe down and disinfect surfaces regularly. Photo: Matt Lanigan

If you think your Lucky Penny vegan puttanesca pasta needs a little salt and pepper, you won’t find any shakers on your table.

Instead, a waiter will do it for you – to avoid multiple customers touching the same shakers throughout the day.

Single-use menus using “cheap A4 paper” will replace reusable menus at the cafe for the same reason, Mr Lanigan said.

Social distancing signage will be placed around the cafe and in the bathrooms urging customers to thoroughly wash their hands.

“Until lockdown is fully lifted, we’re doing bookings only with a limited menu, like a bottomless brunch offering,” Mr Lanigan said.

“We don’t know how quickly people are going to rush out and spend money on avocado toast and coffee. So as a business operator, we need to be confident the level of consumers are going to be there to make it viable.

“Besides, that way we know everyone coming in knows each other.”

Melbourne chef Pierrick Boyer, owner of Reverie cafe and dessert bars, said his staff will offer customers the option of disposable cutlery.

Pierrick Boyer will offer plastic cutlery and plates at his Reverie cafe and dessert bars when restrictions are eased. Photo: Pierrick Boyer

“We’ll offer a nice plate, or a disposable plate and cutlery for those who want it,” Mr Boyer said.

Tape markings have been placed on the floor of Reverie cafes in Prahran, Doncaster and Melbourne Central to ensure patrons comply with social distancing rules.

“We’re going to space out the tables and remove chairs too,” Mr Boyer said.