As restaurants make plans to reopen, many of us can't wait to dine at our favorite spot. Restaurants will be implementing changes that will change your dining experience.

Restaurants are currently part of the Phase 3 in New York's reopening plans. We're currently in Phase 1, with Phase 2 set to start June 2. Phase 3 is scheduled to begin two weeks later, so long as the Mohawk Valley region remains within the parameters defined by Governor Cuomo.

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Utica restaurant Ocean Blue sent an email to its patrons earlier this week outlining the changes it plans to institute as part of their reopening plan. Those changes are likely similar for all restaurants.

  • Reduced seating and bar capacity
  • 6 feet of social distancing between tables
  • Hand sanitizer available throughout the restaurant
  • Sanitized payment terminals and enhanced sanitizing throughout the restaurant
  • Masks provided to all staff, and available to all customers, if wanted
  • Pause on coat check

Ocean Blue plans to open for dine-in dinner beginning on June 12th, with "normal" service beginning on June 19th.

Credit: Doug Allen-Leonard/Wisk

We spoke to Doug Allen-Leonard of Wisk Baking Company of Utica, and he explained that while they're excited to reopen for sit down dining, there is still uncertainty. "We just don't know how busy we're going to be. Will people come out after being stuck at home? We don't know."

Credit: Doug Allen-Leonard/Wisk

Doug explained how restaurateurs are forced to look to other states for guidance, because as of yet, New York hasn't issued any formal guidelines for restaurants.

"It's important for (customers) to feel safe and comfortable, and to see us sanitizing and cleaning."

Doug says Wisk will initially operate at 50% seating capacity, with 6 feet between tables, and will likely switch to disposable plates and cups. He also says instead of refilling mugs, they'll simply offer new cups.

Doug pointed out that Wisk isn't facing the same challenges restaurants like Ocean Blue might, when it comes to estimating supplies. "We don't have those big walk-in freezers, we don't get big shipments of food once a week. It's hard to know what you'll need in this situation."

Several lobbying groups that represent the restaurant and bar industries have been asking the state for guidelines. The CDC has issued a 'Decision-Making Tool' for restaurants, which provides some non-specific guidance, but does not represent mandated changes to restaurant operations.