Popular Fort Worth chef and restaurant owner Tim Love says he’s writing a playbook on how to reopen after the pandemic.
"We're in the midst of the hustle at this point,” he said in an interview at his Fort Worth Italian restaurant Gemelle.
Even as they prepare take-out meals to comply with current restrictions, they’re racing to reopen the inside to 25% capacity.
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For Love, who founded Lonesome Dove 20 years ago, it's a big job.
He now owns 14 restaurants and is reopening most of them on Friday.
He said he would share what he is learning with other restaurant owners so customers will have the same experience wherever they dine.
"I'd love to be part of the solution. I think we will be,” he said. “I think the team is ready. I think the public is ready."
At Gemelle, that means moving the tables a safe distance apart. Maybe only four tables inside, seven on the covered patio, and even more in a separate area outside, he said.
Employees will be screened.
Even customer's temperatures will be taken at the door.
"We want to keep people safe,” he said. “We want to keep them fed. We want to make sure they have a lot of fun."
For customers who are wary about returning, Love encourages them to wait, especially if they have existing medical conditions.
But he also reminds them that restaurants are some of the cleanest businesses around and frequently inspected by the health department.
"I mean retail shops don't do that. Buses don't do that. Taxi cabs don't do that,” he said. “We're the only ones. So we know how to keep things clean. And we're taking that, multiplying it by five to keep people safe."
Love said his focus is on staying safe and not making money.
He’s kept 50 managers on his payroll, he said, but laid-off hourly workers so they could collect unemployment. Most of them will return when his businesses re-open, he said.
And if all goes well, he hopes restaurants can open to 100% capacity by mid-June or July.
"We've got to have some happiness come out of all this darkness that we've had and I think it will happen,” he said.