These past few weeks, students have learned the locations of their classes, the personalities of their teachers and the names of many DoorDash drivers in the Fairfield area. The spread of the COVID-19 virus has impacted the preparation and distribution of food across the nation, resulting in large amounts of plastic being thrown out.
Most restaurants in Connecticut have responded to the challenges of state regulations by focusing on take-out and delivery options. Warm weather has largely allowed this, as patrons of local delis or long-established franchises have the ability to take their food to-go and get together outside. Kids can run around with ice cream dripping down their hands and a mask hanging on their chins. However, as the weather grows colder, many business owners are concerned about the well-being of their restaurants.
States have taken different stances on many aspects of COVID-19 regulations since March; however, the issue of indoor dining has sparked conflict within the tri-state area. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has allowed indoor dining at 25 percent capacity beginning Sept. 30, following significant resistance. This includes a $2 billion lawsuit led by restaurant owners in the city, many of whom have seen their doors close entirely. It isn’t just New York City’s restaurant industry that has taken a massive hit due to the pandemic and the limitations of take-out service. As of April 2020, Business Insider shared a prediction that restaurants are expected to see $240 billion in losses by the end of the year, with eight million restaurant workers unemployed.
Even with restricted indoor dining, restrictions to patio seating or outdoor gatherings may take a bite out of clientele. In response to the pandemic, Fairfield restaurants like Molto and Colony Grill have accommodated outdoor seating, with masked servers or optional physical menus. This seating greatly expands restaurant capacity, but also allows the Fairfield community to find a slice of normalcy in the COVID-19 world. It’s refreshing to look across a patio and see the smiling faces of families and friends at neighboring tables— an image that resembles life before the pandemic.
Some food vendors rely entirely on outdoor opportunities, and have had to adapt in ways beyond seating. The Fairfield Farmers’ Market spreads throughout the Sherman Green on Sundays, with space between booths to allow for social distancing. Though music and other programs have been temporarily suspended, the market continues its determination to provide fresh, local food and connect with the community. Patrons purchase products from fish to fruit, but they may only be placed in bags by the market vendors. The Fairfield Farmers’ Market is on Sundays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m, rain, shine or COVID-19.
With colder weather around the corner, much remains to be seen regarding developments with COVID-19 and restaurant cuisine. Many of the states with the strictest dining restrictions, including the northeast, will also see the greatest changes with the winter season. Small towns like Fairfield, Conn., which features 365 restaurants, will have to see a combination of ingenuity and communal support this fall.
Food is love, togetherness and culture, but it is also a business. The restaurant community has seen a lot of struggle through COVID-19, but the rest of the country has proven its resilience. As time goes on and the situation of America with COVID-19 continues to develop, one thing remains true: people need to eat. And at the end of the day, we need to eat with one another.
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