Sue Brown has undoubtedly encountered nearly every challenge in the restaurant business.
But COVID-19 was a game changer. Brown, the general manager of Oceano Kitchen in Lantana, had a lot more to worry about than inventory when the eatery had to halt in-person dining.
The Ocean Avenue restaurant shifted to takeout — for the first time. “We weren’t set up for it. It was a learning curve, but we figured it out pretty quickly,” says the Hypoluxo Island resident, who did not want to reveal her age.
Everything was uncertain, but staff was buoyed by customers checking in with encouraging words, homemade masks and even monetary donations.
“Our customers tell us how grateful they are that we are open. We are even more grateful to them for coming in.”
Dining on the open-air deck has resumed, but for Brown — along with other servers — things aren’t the same: Masks are stifling, cleaning is constant, and hands are washed repeatedly.
“We are like anyone else, just doing our jobs. We might be a little slower because we have to wash our hands more, so patience is a good thing,” she says.
“When we resumed dine-in it was a little nerve-racking, but I know the majority of my customers so there is a trust level,” she says. “As time went on, I got more comfortable with it. I feel safe. I trust my fellow workers and customers.”
The staff is conscious of health protocols when off-duty, she says. “We know if one of us goes down all of us go down. We are a team and in it together,” Brown says. “It’s been hard for everyone. But we still laugh a lot.”
Although some customers are comfortable only with takeout, Brown looks forward to the day when she’ll see them dining at one of her tables.
“When everybody feels comfortable coming back, then I will be happy.”
— Linda Haase