SCHENECTADY — Little Italy restaurant More Perreca’s has reverted to takeout-only operation, ending sit-down dining for now as a precautionary measure as colder weather approaches.
Owner Maria Perreca Papa said Monday she’s concerned that the COVID-19 infection rate in New York will increase, and she wants staff and patrons alike to be safe. So Sunday was the last day of sit-down dining at More Perreca’s.
Takeout was the order of the day statewide for the first few months of the pandemic, as state health officials ordered a halt to sit-down dining to thwart the spread of the virus.
Sit-down dining gradually returned as New York’s infection rate subsided, first limited to outdoor-only seating and only in lightly-affected regions, then in other regions, and finally indoor seating at 50 percent capacity.
The restaurant industry was harshly affected by the shutdown, with tens of thousands of workers going unemployed. Restaurateurs that could reopen their doors to the public generally did so eagerly, and as quickly as possible.
The heads of downtown business organizations in Albany, Saratoga Springs and Schenectady said Monday they were aware of only a couple of restaurants that had voluntarily reverted to takeout-only.
Melissa Fleischut, CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, said most places want to stay open for sit-down dining as long as they can. Cold weather will eventually end the option of outdoor dining — always popular in summer but more so this year, for its perceived safety — she said, and a resurgence of COVID-19 could limit or end indoor dining.
“I know there’s definitely operators out there that think that could happen again,” she said.
Papa said she’s concerned about infection rate in New York state, which is still low but not quite as low as it once was.
“Who knows, capacity may go down to 25 percent soon,” she said. “We may be all asked to close soon. I have no crystal ball.”
So the decision was made to step back, for safety’s sake and for implementation of a more resilient business model for the remainder of the crisis.
More Perreca’s has developed a curbside no-contact pickup system: Diners drive in off North Jay Street beside the bakery, make a sharp left, and queue up behind the restaurant. The staff puts the food into their car and they drive out onto Warren Street.
A new twist will be satellite curbside pickups. More Perreca’s will bring food to a public parking lot in a distant area where multiple customers live and do a variation on the pickup queue there.
“So I’m actually looking to increase our food output,” Papa said. “I honestly believe if these policies and procedures are put in place … I could drive more business.”
She expects no layoffs to result — kitchen staff will remain in the kitchen, while front-of-house staff will take orders, package the food and hand it out or drive it to the drop-off point instead of greeting, seating and serving diners.
The family’s landmark bread bakery next door, Perreca’s, will remain open from 5 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.