Atmosphere, food and service expected to change at restaurants after pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- How will things change for patrons once restaurants in the Bay Area are allowed to reopen?

There's a lot to be decided, but one thing that most agree on: things won't be the same.

This is hardly what Mourad Lahlou expected following a remodel. His San Francisco restaurant Aziza has been awarded a Michelin star on multiple occasions.

But now it's reduced to being a take-out restaurant.

"We've been building this house for the longest time, since I could remember, and now everything just fell down to the ground," Lahlou said.

RELATED: Gov. Newsom releases guidelines to reopen dine-in restaurants, malls, offices and more in California

Laurie Thomas owns two restaurants in Cow Hollow in San Francisco, Rosa's Café and Terzo. She's also the director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

Thomas points to a survey taken by the California Restaurant Association which estimates only 30% of restaurants will reopen.

"It goes to how many can't access the government help, the payroll protection program," she said.

Thomas has been meeting with city health officials hoping to get a timeline and a guidance on reopening.

"We have to get the workers back to work. It's not just the businesses that need the time frame. It's the families," Thomas said.

There has been talk about the continued use of personal protective equipment and limiting capacity to ensure social distance.

Partitions have also been discussed, as well as outdoor seating.

The customer experience will certainly be different.

"I don't think we can be fine dining any more," said Lahlou. "I don't think we can have the environment, is not fit for fine dining anymore."

He believes the safety precautions, while needed, will significantly alter the relationship between diners and those that serve them.

"We provide the exact thing we are told not to do anymore - which is socializing," he said.

One outcome of all this is that with limited seatings, those seeking reservations may have to eat dinner as early as 5 and as late as 9.

"That's one thing to look at that's fairly easy to implement if we have customers," said Thomas.

Thomas doesn't expect restaurants to reopen in the Bay Area for seating any earlier than late this month or in early June. Lahlou suggests things will return to normal once we have a vaccine.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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