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Detroit Restaurants Switch to Carryout and Delivery, Reduced Seating

The novel coronavirus outbreak is fundamentally changing how restaurants operate

The empty dining room at Saffron De Twah has white walls, a few wooden tables, and a walk-up window for placing orders.
Saffron De Twah converted to carryout-only on Thursday in an effort to help mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Gerard + Belevender
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Restaurants throughout metro Detroit are rapidly adjusting their service to comply with Centers for Disease Control recommendations for preventing the spread of the new coronavirus (in addition to those guidelines, governor Gretchen Whitmer approved a new rule today banning events and gatherings of 250 people or more). “Social distancing” is a critical measure in reducing the spreading a contagion. Converting to carryout-only, expanding into delivery, and reducing seating are just some of the ways restaurants adapting to serve customers and simultaneously avoid the disease spread.

On Thursday, just after the first cases of the novel coronavirus were identified in Michigan, Eater Detroit’s Restaurant of the Year Saffron De Twah closed its small dining room and switched to carryout service. “After consultation with medical professionals, Saffron De Twah has decided to help mitigate crowds and contact by temporarily switching our restaurant to takeout-only,” owner Omar Anani writes in a statement to Eater. Customers can call in orders and have food brought to their cars.

Anani and his team are also looking into options for expanding into delivery. “We have to be proactive not reactive,” Anani says of the changes. “I’m willing to take a monetary loss to do what’s right.”

Brome Modern Eatery also closed its dining rooms, and temporarily shut down its Detroit location. The Dearborn location will continue to offer carryout and delivery.

Being responsive to the novel coronavirus outbreak means something different for cafes that deal with reusable containers and often have shared items set out for people to customize their beverage. For Anthology Coffee in Eastern Market, mitigating exposure to the new coronavirus means taking extra steps to ensure customers and staff are washing their hands when entering the establishment and pulling items like self-serve straws and sugar off counters. At Red Hook shops in Ferndale and West Village, hand sanitizer has been placed next to registers and self-serve water has been eliminated. The cafes are also temporarily reverting to disposable cups and utensils.

The dining room at stage deli has gray booths and white chairs. Everything is spread out due to reduced capacity.
Stage Deli reduced the capacity in its dining room as part of a “social distancing” plan.
Courtesy photo

West Bloomfield’s Stage Deli went even further. In addition to offering delivery and curbside pickup, owner Steve Goldberg tells Eater the restaurant is enhancing its disinfecting protocols and reduced seating capacity by 30 percent.

For those concerned about the high cost of delivery, some restaurants are trying to meet customers halfway. L.A. Bistro in Canton announced on Thursday that it would offer free delivery on orders of $40 or more.

Elsewhere, restaurants were also exploring new service formats to help meet the needs of customers in the newly challenging environment. Chef Nik Cole of the Kitchen By Cooking With Que in New Center, says the restaurant and cooking education space has taken a hit in the last week due to catering order cancellations and slower foot traffic at the restaurant. “It’s been slow in the restaurant,” during the Kitchen’s limited lunch service, she says.

The restaurant, which also provides prepared meals, is also offering delivery to clients to reduce possible exposure to the new coronavirus. “We’ve been allowing the clients to let us deliver, which just makes them more comfortable.” The Kitchen is not currently working with any delivery apps, but may explore that option if demand increases.

Update: This story was updated on March 14 at 6:10 p.m.

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Saffron De Twah

7636 Gratiot Avenue, , MI 48213 (586) 359-6138 Visit Website

Anthology Coffee

1948 Division Street, , MI 48207 (313) 355-4040 Visit Website

The Red Hook Detroit

8025 Agnes St., Detroit, MI 48214 (313) 458-8761

Brome Modern Eatery

22062 Michigan Avenue, , MI 48124 (313) 996-5050 Visit Website