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WBNS-10TV Columbus, Ohio | Columbus News, Weather & Sports |

Local restaurants get creative to boost safety as they welcome customers back

From QR code menus, to wood-framed table dividers.

Thursday was a big day for restaurants in Ohio, as they welcomed guests back into their dining room for the first time in two months.

The reopening comes with challenges of social distancing, and some local restaurants are getting creative to keep customers safe.

Carolina and Carlos Gutierrez's South American heritage inspires the menu at Arepazo Tapas Bar Grille in the Brewery District.

But succeeding in the restaurant business takes a lot more than inspiration.

"When you're a small business, you just rely on yourself. Your pockets are not very deep. There is no back-up income."

Before the pandemic, they had 45 employees at two locations.

Now, they're down to 12.

"This is our only income as a family," Gutierrez said. "And the only income for many of the employees that we had to let go."

Just a few blocks down High Street, Valter Veliu knows her struggle.

"It feels like I didn't have a restaurant before. And now, I'm opening my restaurant," said the owner of Valter's at the Maennerchor.

But not without changes to comply with state guidelines for safe operation.

"The social distancing, no menus," Gutierrez said. "The less things that we touch, the better it is."

No menus? No problem.

Gutierrez explains.

"You pull up your smart phone and you go to your camera application like you're going to take a picture. And you get it close to to the QR code (posted at each table). You need the food menu, the drink menu or the Happy Hour menu? It pops right in here, you touch it, and then it pulls up our menu from our website."

Veliu took a different approach, building wood-framed plexiglass dividers for his tables.

"If you put something quick and inexpensive, it just doesn't fit in my restaurant. I have a very classy restaurant and I could not just put something there," he said.

He said he wanted to maintain the appearance and atmosphere of his dining room.

"Safety, appearance, all of it," he said of his priorities. "But we need to find out now, from our customers: how comfortable are they going to be dining at my restaurant? That's my main concern."

"We hope and I expect that we all do this together. We are doing our best," said Gutierrez.

She asks customers not only for their support, but their understanding.

"We want the customers to come enjoy and eat, but we all need to watch out for each other and be respectful of everybody's life."