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It’s a tough time to be in the business of food — but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a path forward, said Chad Tillman, emphasizing Strang Hall’s readiness to tackle new challenges.
“We just look for slow and precautionary measures to get right back to where we were,” Tillman, the chef behind the food hall’s Norcini kitchen — which specializes in craft pizzas and sandwiches, said of what business now looks like at the downtown Overland Park-based chef collective.
Newly reopened for curbside service after a six-week hiatus, operations at Strang Hall have taken a safety-first approach in the midst of the city’s mid-pandemic reopening, Strang Hall told Startland News.
All employees are using a COVID-19 screening tool — issued by Apple and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and their temperature is taken at the beginning of every shift.
In the dining room, seating capacity has been cut in half, all bar stools have been removed, and tables have been rearranged in line with social distancing standards of six feet. Tables are routinely cleaned and sanitized between guests and again with a sanitizing wipe — for added reassaurance — when customers are seated.
Click here to read about Strang Hall’s commitment to cashless sales.
“It’s probably going to take a little longer than what we want,” Tillman said of the road back to pre-pandemic operations. “[Customers are] being safe, they’re unsure, they’re timid. We have people who walk up to the doors, looking in like, ‘Are you really open?’ … I get that there’s concern from people.”
Similar concern rocked Tillman’s world as he ramped up his own plans for a busy spring, he said.
“It was an awe shocking experience. … It was like you planted a seed and that seed grew into a plant and that plant went through and produced no actual fruit — and then all of a sudden that it was gone,” he explained.
Restaurants don’t overcome such challenges just because Stay at Home orders are lifted, Tillman added.
“The ability to hire people back who have been off or furloughed — and are making considerably more than what they were making before they left. These are all challenges and tasks that we’re being faced with. And not to mention, the lights still have to be turned on and paid for. There’s way more on our plate,” he said of challenges for COVID-era restaurateurs.
“It’s not like we were just guys that cooked food before. We have to be fortune tellers and perfectionists and there’s so many different hats that we have to put on now.”
One silver lining: The unexpected time off because of the COVID-19 shutdowns helped Tillman come up with new ideas for Norcini and its menu — something he’s hopeful customers new and old will appreciate as they venture back out into the world.
“There are a couple of the concepts here [at Strang Hall] that had an opportunity to somewhat rebrand. So they took that opportunity,” he said of neighboring concepts within the food hall. “I think that by doing that, it just gives them the ability to do what they need to do to provide quality food, that people are going to buy — and are happy to buy — and are excited to come back and try again.”
Click here to place a curbside order at Strang Hall.