A famed Seattle restaurant seeks a recipe for survival

Edouardo Jordan is the winner of a prestigious James Beard award and owner of two of Seattle’s most celebrated restaurants. But fame and glory can’t immunize his business from COVID-19. Every restaurant, from the most humble burger shack to the fanciest fine dining establishment, is vulnerable to economic fallout from the virus.

Long before the pandemic erupted, the staff was conscientious about food safety. Now, in addition to their usual practices, they’ve added an hourly cleanup check. Every hour on the hour, everyone stops what they’re doing for yet another wipe down.

“If it’s 12 o’clock, it’s wipe down time,” Jordan said. “If it’s one o’clock, it’s wipe down time. We’re instilling new practices that make the most sense right now.”

The man beneath the mask is Edouardo Jordan, who has restructured service at his award-winning JuneBaby restaurant as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Masks, physical distancing and other precautions have been added to the usual list of health and safety steps.

Takeout only

This sign greets JuneBaby customers when they check in to pick up their orders.

Although Washington restaurants have been permitted to operate at reduced capacity as part of the Governor’s Safe Start plan, JuneBaby is not offering table service — not inside, and not on the patio. Their innovative take on Southern cuisine is only available for takeout.

Jordan decided that operating the restaurant with reduced dining-in service wasn’t the safest path.

“I considered the health and safety of my staff, myself and my six-year-old son,” Jordan explained. “The last thing I want to do is have him exposed to the virus due to our continuous contact with patrons.”

JuneBaby’s customers must come to the restaurant to pick up their food. “We don’t use Door Dash or anything like that,” Jordan said. “This system gives us more control over the quality of the food.”

No-touch service

From start to finish, the restaurant has implemented “no-touch” service. Customers order food online and pay with a credit card before they come to the restaurant, no cash accepted. When they arrive, they give their name to a staffer who greets them at the front door. A table stationed in front of the entrance keeps them six feet apart.

A staffer takes the customer’s name, carries their food out the side door and places it on a table in the patio. After the staffer goes back inside, the customer walks over to the patio to pick up their food. They are always more than six feet apart.

A JuneBaby staffer greets customers when they check in at the front door. In order to maintain physical distance, diners pick up their orders from a table near the side door, just down the block.

Jordan’s team also carefully follows these basic health and safety procedures required for all food establishments:

  • Maintain physical distance. Make sure employees and customers remain at least six feet apart whenever possible.
  • Wear a mask. Keep your face covered, unless of course, you need to test the food. If the food tastes good, pat yourself on the back. If it needs improvement, put your mask back on and spice it up.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Before and after handling food, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Wear gloves when packing and transporting meals.
  • Conduct regular health checks. When staffers arrive, have a manager check their temperature before they clock in. If they have COVID-19 symptoms, send them home.
  • Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. Wipe down countertops and cooking areas before and after you cook, and then wipe them down some more.

“We’re all in this together.”

For the first four months after the pandemic erupted, the staff at Jordan’s first restaurant, Solare, operated a community kitchen just down the street from JuneBaby, in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood. They prepared more than 20,000 meals for displaced restaurant workers and community organizations that help people confronting food insecurity.

Jordan recently began offering takeout service at Salare, following the same safety procedures the staff has implemented at JuneBaby, which has been featured in the New York Times and other national publications. But all the awards in the world won’t guarantee his restaurants’ survival, Jordan said.

“Fear is fear, the virus is the virus,” he said. “We’re all in this together. Our business structure changed just as much as every other restaurant’s business structure changed. Hopefully, we can maintain a real revenue stream so that we can stay alive.”

A happy customer picks up his order from JuneBaby, which is offering takeout service only, Thursdays through Sundays.

Originally published on August 13, 2020.