Since the initial shelter-in-place order on March 16 shook up San Francisco’s dining scene, local restaurants have scrambled to adapt to the new reality of a city where eating is no longer an option. For some places, that means closing for the time being — a fact of life communicated by shuttered windows in many of the city’s trendiest restaurant districts.
Yet many restaurants have remained open for takeout and delivery and in doing so have had to adjust their business models and physical storefronts – some now operate as takeout storefronts; others have changed focus to look more like a makeshift general store. With the region-wide shelter in place now extended until at least the end of May – with no timeline for restaurant dining rooms to open – restaurant windows across the city will continue to look very different for some time yet.
With its paper-lined windows, the Neapolitan Doppio Zero pizza hot spot could be mistaken for an entirely closed restaurant – save for the colorful, handwritten ‘OPEN FOR TAKEOUT’ sign and the small Italian market display set up in one corner . Like many restaurants in the city, the entrance is completely blocked off, so customers can only pick up their orders outside.
In order to survive, many places in the city have shifted to selling groceries and pantry supplies, so they operate as much as general stores and specialty food stores as traditional restaurants. . At Troya, the Turkish-Mediterranean restaurant in Pac Heights, the impromptu Turkish market the owner set up is now the most prominent part of the storefront.
“Yes, we have margins,” reads the handwritten sign at the pickup area in Flores, Mexico’s Cow Hollow spot. Like many SF restaurants, it also has a hand sanitizer dispenser set up for customers.
Even three-Michelin-star gourmet palaces like Atelier Crenn simply hand bags of food to customers through a window. The restaurant’s only food offering at the moment is a $38 to $55 per person “Kit Crenn” that customers heat up at home.
One of the most advanced take-out windows might be Creator, the state-of-the-art robot burger restaurant in SoMa. They designed and installed a self-disinfecting “transfer chamber gate,” complete with a hand-cranked conveyor belt, in an effort to seal off any potential contact between their workers and customers.
Meanwhile, Wrecking Ball Coffee in Cow Hollow was one of the first places to install a plexiglass screen to create an extra level of protection for its staff and customers.
Other cafes, like the Ritual’s Hayes Valley spot, limit the number of customers allowed in the store — only one at a time, in Ritual’s case — and set up cones to make sure people waiting in line maintain the required six feet of social distancing.
Of course, restaurants and cafes aren’t the only places to install plexiglass sneeze guards to keep their workers safe. In the first two weeks of shelter-in-place, many grocery stores have also made this switch — and not just big chains like Safeway, but also local favorites like Bi-Rite Market in NoPa.
When the first shelter-in-place expansion fell in late March, pushing back the end of the regional shutdown until at least May 3 (an end date that has now been pushed back until at least the end of May), it added stricter guidelines for social distancing protocols and signage that businesses like restaurants had to put in place. Later, San Francisco also implemented a policy requiring people to wear masks when performing tasks such as picking up takeout from restaurants.
The exact implementation of these policies has of course varied from place to place, from the multiple handmade “No Masks, No Entry” signs to The Mediterranean on Fillmore…
… to the group of panels at the counter of Namu Stonepot in NoPa.
To avoid customers having to manipulate a menu, restaurants like Nopa, the institution of Californian cuisine, have displayed in their windows menus written by hand on butcher paper…
…while others, like Delarosa, Adriano Paganini’s fine-crust pizzeria in the Marina, rely on large panels visible from the street. Like many other restaurants, it has basically converted its storefront to a take-out storefront.