Will your favorite metro Des Moines restaurant open this week? It may hinge the food supply chain
For just about two months, the doors of many Iowa restaurants have been shuttered to dine-in customers by order of Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Her Wednesday order is allowing those in places including metro Des Moines' Polk, Dallas and Jasper counties to reopen Friday, but some say that's not as simple as putting out an "open" sign.
The coronavirus pandemic's effects on the supply chain may ultimately determine whether they can get the food they need in time to serve a sudden influx in customers.
Jeff Bruning, co-owner of Full Court Press, which operates several popular restaurants in metro Des Moines, including El Bait Shop and Fong's Pizza, said most of the group's properties will open Friday, with the rest aiming to open Saturday. Following the state's directives, they will adhere to restrictions that include operating at no more than 50% of fire code capacity, providing additional space between tables and thoroughly cleaning surfaces.
Bruning said some of the restaurants have raised concerns about not being able to get all the food supplies they usually have, but with the variety of meals the eateries offer, customers will still have options.
Orchestrate Hospitality, on the other hand, which also manages several restaurants in Des Moines, including Zombie Burger and Centro, will not open on Friday. Marketing director Adam Bartelt said the company does not have concerns about finding supplies but that the restaurants need more time to stock up.
RESTRICTIONS: What can open? What has to stay closed?
A Dong, a venerable Vietnamese restaurant on High Street, also will remain closed Friday, partly because there is not enough time to have supplies delivered, co-owner Neal Ngu said. He also does not want to rush into reopening and put customers and employees at risk of contracting the virus.
Ngu said he wouldn't be able to get supplies until next week, and he needs takeout containers and produce such as broccoli, mushrooms and fresh herbs for the soups the restaurant serves.
"Right now the inventory is short everywhere. We have to wait," he said. "I'm not happy about it, but there's nothing much we can do about it."
Exile Brewing owner R.J Tursi also is concerned about inventory at his downtown taproom and restaurant. He said that after it shut down dine-in service March 17, his staff cleaned out draft lines, packed up supplies and pared-down inventory. The two days between Reynolds' announcement Wednesday and restaurant reopenings were not enough time to order sufficient food from distributors to serve what could be a crowd of returning customers, he said.
With a shortage of meat due to several packing plants either slowing production or shutting down, Tursi said, he isn't sure what the menu will look like.
"You don’t just snap your fingers and a supply chain is filled," he said. "The supply chain has been pared back significantly over the past two months, so it’s going to take a little bit of time to get it back to where it needs to be."
Eatery A Executive Chef Keith Johnson said the Ingersoll Avenue restaurant will maintain carryout service but still is determining when to open its doors to dine-in customers. Along with a shortage of meat, specifically pork, he said, he's concerned about increasing costs for food.
"Everybody was very ill-prepared for this virus, farmers and everyone included, so I think the supply chain is still there. It’s just been damaged a bit," he said.
Frances Graziano relies on pork. The president of the Italian foods retailer and sausage maker Graziano Brothers, south of downtown, Graziano said her business supplies about 100 restaurants in the Des Moines area with Italian sausage. However, because of meatpacking plant slowdowns and shutdowns, Graziano's inventory is at about 25% of its normal capacity just as restaurants are reopening, she said.
"We're opening up at a time when we have the least to provide," she said.
When she does have sausage to sell, it may be more expensive because of shortages. That goes for all products made with pork, she warned, such as lunch meat and frozen meals with sausage.
"Prices have skyrocketed," Graziano said. "As they open up, the price point that they were working with is going to be totally different when they open up the doors."
Sarah LeBlanc covers trending news for the Register. Reach her at 515-284-8161 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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