For restaurants able to offer outdoor dining, which the city recently greenlighted in accordance with Phase 3 guidelines, keeping up with what seems like daily-changing rules can be a full-time job in and of itself. A new non-profit called Safe Eats hopes to help alleviate some of the confusion surrounding these guidelines, while also alerting customers that they are in partnership with these restaurants with public-facing stickers that would be tacked onto the front of the storefront, not unlike city-mandated health letter grades.
As the New York Times first reported, restaurants like Dan Kluger’s Loring Place have joined on board for membership (Safe Eats was founded by Carlos Suarez, who owns a group of restaurants in the West Village including Rosemary’s and Claudette alongside Yann de Rochefort, the founder of the Boqueria chain).
However, while the intention of the project seems initially like a positive way to share information and reassure prospective customers about safety, there are potential harmful effects, even if unintended.
Safe Eats intends to charge prospective members a fee, $69 per month, according to The Counter. Nevertheless, no matter how "nominal" a fee, restaurants are shuttering at an alarming rate: they can’t afford rent, are having to lay-off employees in mass, and any kind of additional charge has the ability to put a business over the edge right now. That said, the potential to gain information about the current guidelines without having to waste time following them so closely could be worth it for some—though many business owners right now are acting as amateur epidemiologists already.
But beyond that, we can’t help but wonder how it might affect the psychology of restaurant goers. The sticker’s stamp of approval on safety guidelines may encourage diners to stop by and try the food knowing that it’s a space that takes safety and social-distancing seriously. However, should it become mainstream enough, customers might confuse restaurants without those stickers as being more safe than those without the sticker, which, of course, isn’t necessarily true. Plenty of businesses may be following the exact same guidelines without the pronouncement of the sticker. This could further affect the ability for some small businesses—particularly those family-run, neighborhood-y spots that do not have the same luxury of paying for a PR team or a customer base with loads of money to spare—to thrive, simply due to customer-facing confusion and misinformation.
According to the Times, “The organizers of Safe Eats said that they reached out to the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio for input, but that the office showed no interest in getting involved.”
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