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Less In-Person Dining Seen During Orange Phase, Restaurant Owners Say

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Restaurants are doing what they can to still bring in business during the pandemic. Some business is better than others based on location and COVID-19 regulations from the Utah Leads Program.

Michael McHenry, creator of the restaurant organization, The McHenry Group, owns three restaurants — Dirty Bird in Provo, Oakwood Fire Kitchen in Draper and his newest restaurant that opened last year in downtown Salt Lake City, Ginger Street.

All three restaurants have been abiding by social distancing rules and keeping their in-person dining to 50 percent capacity.

However, Ginger Street has seen significantly less in-person traffic than the other restaurants.

“In the Orange zone, there is still a lot of fear and anxiety. There is still a lot of the workforce that has yet to come back to the city,” McHenry said.

He said they’ve invested thousands of dollars into creating a digital menu that people can scan with their phones to pull up on the internet. It is one of the many changes they have made in their restaurants to promote better hygiene.

All employees wear masks, gloves and get their temperatures checked too.

McHenry said all of these added costs on small businesses during this uncertain time has been a huge burden, but he wants to do what’s best to promote public safety and health.

James Edwards, owner of James Gourmet Pies, said small business owners have to get creative right now. He said he hasn’t had any help in government loans, but has kept his business alive with help from other small businesses.

“You don’t need a big budget to get the word out about your product,” Edwards said.

He primarily got his revenue from events and farmers’ markets. He said he has offered an exchange of services, like cleaning, for promotion of his business in other small businesses. Edwards is doing what he can to encourage people not to give up on their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the looming threat of the disease hangs over Utah, talk of a possible new shutdown to slow the spread of cases was worrisome for businesses.

“If we go into another full shutdown, we will see a substantial amount of restaurants not make it,” McHenry said.

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