As Summit County restaurants gear up to reopen, new app aims to help monitor occupancy
DILLON — Gov. Jared Polis said Friday that depending on the effectiveness of the state’s safer-at-home order, he hopes to allow Colorado restaurants to reopen in May, potentially before Memorial Day.
In order to cater to Summit County restaurants serving takeout and in preparation of reopening with restrictions — which could include social distancing, occupancy limits and masks — local bar owner Lindsay Atkins is spearheading the development of an app that would streamline the process.
Atkins owns High Rockies Whiskey and Wine Bar and said the app is expected be live in three weeks. Called Spots, the app is a to-go ordering platform for Summit County restaurants as well as a reservation platform for any type of business.
“It’s really just to create more transparency before actually going to the restaurant, and it also is a way for a business owner to capitalize and make money off their spots,” Atkins said. “Because what we have right now is we have a demand to go out. … And people are willing to pay to sit at the bar to have a cocktail for two hours at $5 an hour.”
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She added that the charge per seat, if any, is up to the restaurant owner. Atkins explained that with reopening, consumers fear the unknown and their safety, so the app will help keep them informed of a businesses’ occupancy before they visit. She added that even after COVID-19, the app will help streamline the seating process for major events.
“Even after COVID, I think it’s sustainable because if you think about the Super Bowl, at my bar I sold $1,000 just on table seating because people want to reserve tables, and they’re trying to throw down money so they actually have a … seat in the Super Bowl,” Atkins said.
Atkins said about 25 local businesses have signed up to use the app, including El Zacatecano, Modis and Pug Ryan’s Brewery. Pricing for a business to use the app ranges from $60 to about $160 per year and will be based on occupancy.
Vinny Monarca, owner of Vinny’s Euro-American Cuisine, is one of the restaurants engaged with Atkins’ app. Monarca said he likes the concept of people reserving places at the bar and in the restaurant.
“People will be able to see what seats are full, what seats are open, so that will save us time on the phone,” Monarca said. “People can see that if it’s available, they can come in.”
Monarca said that unlike other reservation apps, he will be able to run the reservations the way his restaurant seats parties. He said that going forward, capacity likely will be one of the most important factors in the restaurant’s operation and that he might charge for seating if there is a big enough demand.
Luis Flores, manager of Hacienda Real, another restaurant that signed up for the app, said he does not plan to charge for seating. He simply hopes the app will help draw people to the restaurant. Flores said he is readying the establishment for when he is allowed to reopen.
Teryn Guadagnoli, owner of Modis restaurant in Breckenridge, said she likes the ideas behind the app as restaurants struggle to plan without any concrete date or set protocols for reopening.
“I love the idea of being able to say, ‘Hey, these seats are open right now,'” Guadagnoli said. “It’s a lot cheaper than Open Table. I love the idea of being able to walk down Main Street and say, ‘These people have occupancy.’”
Guadagnoli is also on the board of the Breckenridge Restaurant Association and said that while restaurants don’t know for certain what the protocols will be, restaurants might be allowed to open at only 25% capacity to start, which she said might not be worth it for some. She said her priority is to keep her family, staff and customers safe. To do that, she plans to ask those who come in whether they have COVID-19 symptoms.
“Part of my playbook is to have whoever’s seating people ask those appropriate questions, so if the app can do that, that’s great,” Guadagnoli said.
She said she is concerned about asking people to leave if the restaurant is at capacity. She is also worried about enforcing a mask rule.
“I’m really concerned about how people are going to treat us,” Guadagnoli said. “I can’t guarantee that we’re going to open in May even if we’re allowed to.”
For more information about Spots, email email@example.com.
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