Restaurants Rethink Customer Experience Amid Return to Full Capacity in DC

As restaurants return to full-capacity dining, owners realize old habits won’t completely return in life after the pandemic

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Many local restaurants are preparing to return back to normal as indoor dining restrictions end Friday in D.C.

Hollis Silverman, owner of The Duck and The Peach, opened her restaurant just after Christmas as D.C.’s second indoor dining ban began. As vaccine rates rise and restrictions ease, staff at The Duck and The Peach are now getting the hang of things in a space reworked for the post-pandemic consumer.

“It was really important to me to actually create a different type of business model that would help the restaurant industry,” Silverman said. "We've had to rearrange how the bar was set up, how people would order, how people would enter and exit. We've had to worry about where people would be on the floor. It's a lot of traffic controlling to keep everybody safe."

Behind the layout at Duck and Peach is Olvia Demetriou. She’s a partner at HapstakDemetriou+ and has been a leader in the D.C. architecture scene for decades.

“A lot of restaurateurs are actually looking more at the whole carry-out experience, creating direct access to the take-out counter. So, it’s really changed the paradigm,” Demetriou said.

Demetriou said flexibility is a must in outdoor dining spaces, including the patio she designed at The Duck and The Peach.

Wheels were added on everything, including tables and planters, so the space could easily be transformed for cool spring mornings and hot summer nights.

Demetriou said her office is now flooded with requests for upgrades like these as restaurant owners realize the habits of old won’t completely return in life after the pandemic.

“It’s like a different kind of positioning. It’s more casual, more take-out. I’m European so I’m used to seeing restaurants outside," Demetriou said. "It’s magical and it's nice seeing that in D.C."

From QR codes replacing menus to boxed lunches replacing barstools, Silverman said customers have embraced changes.

“The pandemic has added a whole other layer that I don’t think I could’ve ever imagined, but it’s made us stronger and it’s going to make it better in the future for everything,” Silverman said.

Many restauranteurs are warning customers to not expect the complete restaurant experience to return overnight as they’re still working hard to hire and train staff to handle 100% capacity.

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