As Essex County continues to be among the hardest hit by the pandemic, businesses are struggling to not only meet CDC guidelines, but to assuage the fears and concerns of customers. Many residents are excited to embrace the option of outdoor dining again, available this week at local restaurants. Others are conflicted, with worries about staying safe when buying and ordering food.
Jorge Aguirre said his family orders takeout once a week and grocery shops at local supermarkets. Aguirre said he is careful but not obsessive when it comes to taking precautions.
“If one end of the spectrum are folks crammed into the pool in the Ozarks and on the other end is Howard Hughes germaphobe, I am somewhere in the middle,” he says.
Aguirre is strictly shopping local and has ordered takeout “only from places that have contactless delivery.”
Joann Eckstut, an interior design and color consultant, has been sheltering in place for over 90 days and has not consumed any takeout. She says the difference between her feeling safe or unsafe is whether she is able to call in an order that is available for pickup outside “or right up front in an organized fashion.”
Helen Torris orders frequently from local restaurants. In fact, in lieu of vacationing this year, she and her family decided to order out frequently as one of their favorite parts of vacationing is typically trying new food. Torris, who has a child with Celiac, had found it too difficult to get a delivery slot for groceries, but instead takes many precautions at the supermarket.
Torris will take a paper towel soaked in disinfectant to clean the cart handles or open the vegetable bags.
“We disinfect every packet and box and wash the fruit and vegetables,” Torris says. She realizes the chances of picking up coronavirus from items being brought into the house is small, but she is still careful.
Arielle Eckstut hasn’t grocery shopped in person, opting to have groceries delivered. She hasn’t done much takeout, except for Le French Dad, Rosarios and Montclair Bread Company. “I feel comfortable that they are taking precautions and making sure their staff doesn’t have to work if sick.”
She also treated herself to takeout from Bivio.
“It’s not normal pizza, it’s in this beautiful oven, he is the only person cooking and it’s tiny,” she said, adding that seeing the pizza go from paddle to box makes her feels safe.
Eckstut has also been encouraged by businesses who are sending out emails talking about how the business is operating.
Richard Stanton, a local realtor, said, at the beginning of the pandemic, his family would leave the boxes of food outside, and when they would order pizza from Mr. Dinos, they would carefully slide it onto a cutting board to remove it from the box.
Stanton says besides the comfort of supporting local businesses, his family enjoys knowing what the process is. His son has been delivering food and never goes inside the establishment or the home. He picks up with mask and gloves and drops off with mask and gloves on.
Barry Hartsfield considers several factors when getting takeout.
“I think about the prior reputation of the restaurant. I can order with confidence from local stalwarts like Egan’s, Rays on Walnut and Montclair Diner,” says Hartsfield.
Most agreed that they look for businesses to be safe and transparent about their practices and the more they know about how a business is operating, the more likely they are to venture out and spend money, especially to support local businesses.