While the COVID closures are coming to a halt, the future of hospitality, and what the protocols and safety checks will be post-pandemic are coming to light. Many of these new rules centre around the guest, from socially-distanced patio tables to digital menus, the biggest reform is happening front-of-house.

As if our hospitality friends haven’t faced enough, with months of financial burdens and looming start/stops, restaurant staff and owners have been left to languish until the pandemic is perceived to be “over“, which we all quietly suspect will be after a second-wave hits, and sadly, most likely before a vaccine is released.

I spoke with District Executive Chef John Horne and Sous Chef Laura Petracca (over the phone, naturally) both with Oliver & Bonacini about the future of food service and how their industry has rapidly switched gears to make safety everyone’s first priority.

Libby Roach- We’ve seen immediate and drastic changes for guests, from sharing personal information at check-in for tracking, to masks in shared spaces. Visually, it’s a lot to take in, but what’s happening behind the scenes?

Laura Petracca– It’s been a journey. We rely heavily on our senses when we work in the kitchen. Now faced with face masks/shields our techniques for tasting and testing obviously look a lot different now. Wearing gloves as well adds a layer, plating and presentation and checking textures is a careful process.

John Horne– We take the dish out of the kitchen away from other people so we can unmask and taste properly and safely. At Maison Selby we’ll go up to the empty dining room and eat it and suggest adjustments. It’s true though, with a mask on you can’t smell can’t taste and with gloves on it’s a different feel game- but we are very fortunate, we have so many highly trained people working for us including Chef Laura Petracca, that know what they’re doing and have a feel for it. They’re going to be close on recipes to begin with.

LR- What other protocols are new for your team?

JH– We’re using biodegradable plastic spoons to taste with. So we can safely taste and try our foods before they go out, and are using environmentally friendly changes wherever possible. We’re making considerations if we’re allowed to use paper plates or if we can still use our proper ones. We have great people top to bottom, and they are working so hard to make the experience a positive one for every guest, and staff member.

LP– Our team is united and has always relied on one another. Our workplace has faced an uphill battle, but we have always operated as a team, across all the restaurants. Seeing the collaborative process and our Chefs partnering up (like with the recent Auberge x Canoe) it’s actually quite exhilarating to see the post-pandemic opportunities. Front of House has been doing an amazing job sanitizing between seatings and keeping safety a top priority for everyone.