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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Back of house worker Wanda White prepares an order for a drive through costumer at Bones Smokehouse, located at 7601 East Brainerd road, on Monday, March 23, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Many restaurants in Hamilton County have shut down in an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus, or have switched to carry out only for the time being.

Olive Branch owner Callie Meta said the East Ridge restaurant's kitchen has always been clean enough to eat off of, but the COVID-19 virus pandemic has caused her staff to take additional measures such as cleaning the bathrooms every 30 minutes and the cash register after every transaction.

And, she said customers have been very understanding and careful when it comes to adhering to the six-foot spacing recommendation put forth by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She only allows up to 10 people inside for takeout orders, and even customers who call in curbside orders are being extra careful, she said.

"We were very busy Friday and had customers with colds or hay fever or whatever call in orders and tell us they were sick. We brought the food out to them and they didn't even open the windows. We put the food on the hood of their car and went back inside."

At Zarzour's on Rossville Boulevard, Shannon Fuller said she feels like a surgeon while preparing burgers and fries for customers.

"I scrub up and put on gloves and I'm very conscious about not touching anything but the food. I don't even answer the phone. If I screw up and forget, I start all over and scrub up again."

Husband Joe "Dixie" Fuller, who is making the deliveries and helping in the kitchen, and server Sherrie Barnes are also donning gloves. Only Joe Fuller touches the money, and he washes his hands and changes his gloves after each transaction.

Shannon Fuller said going to the burger/fries-only offering did two things. It allows her to better control costs, and to control the food prep. Only she touches the food while it's cooked.

"I've done a lot of research, and I'm very, very serious about this stuff," she said.

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Chattanooga restaurants adapt to coronavirus

Curbside/takeout parking areas

Restaurants or other businesses that rely on delivery or curbside pick-up can request a loading zone near their establishment by calling Chattanooga Parking Authority at (423) 648-4031.

 

It's a similar situation at Eleven, the restaurant inside the Double Tree Downtown.

Darin Grohs, drector of culinary arts with Vision Hospitality, said all food at the restaurant is being prepared only by Executive Chef John Wesley.

He said it has always been Vision's policy that any sick employee stay home until they are well, but now with the coronavirus pandemic, employees must get a note from their doctor clearing them to work.

"Because of the services we render, we interact with everybody in the hotel and have so many touch points," he said.

Realizing that people need to eat, and that more than a few people rely on restaurants to prepare meals for them, Eleven has created a family friendly menu with ready-to-eat items or meals that people can order and take home and pop in the oven.

"Some people don't ever cook at home," Grohs said.

(Read more: COVID-19 forces Chattanooga restaurants to cut staff, make tough decisions)

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke on Thursday ordered an end to dine-in services at city restaurants. To make it easier for restaurants to offer take-out food and curb service, the Chattanooga Department of Transportation and the Chattanooga Parking Authority are converting on-street parking spaces near restaurants to temporary loading zones to facilitate curbside meal pickup and delivery.

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See the Chattanooga curbside take out parking map

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"We know the best way to slow the spread of coronavirus is by practicing social distancing," Berke said. "We also want to make it easier for Chattanoogans to continue to support these important local businesses and also safely receive take-out or delivered food while maintaining appropriate social distance."

According to the news release, the parking authority recently surveyed downtown parking usage to figure out the best locations that are convenient to restaurants. It will use this information to identify curbside parking spaces that will be reserved for free for up to 15 minutes.

"Restaurants are a vital part of our downtown street life, and CDOT and the Parking Authority want to do everything we can to keep these local, downtown businesses active during this mandate," said Blythe Bailey, Chattanooga Department of Transportation administrator. "Curb space near restaurants can be used smartly, making it easier for people to access our restaurants."

The special pickup spots should be clearly marked.

Bones' Smokehouse manager Tim Bishop said the restaurant has also altered its menu to be easier for a smaller staff to prepare and to reflect what take-out customers seem to want.

"We had a busy weekend and figured out what we are doing. We've reconfigured our prep lines and how we do things," he said.

For example, the Smokehouse Chicken Salad is a popular item normally, but Bishop said he only wants to sell it fresh-made daily, and that is not practical, so it is no longer offered. He said all of the staff members involved in food prep have always worn gloves, but now cashiers and workers manning the drive-thru window also are wearing them.

"And, we have hand sanitizer and wipes at those stations, and we sanitize the doorknobs and tip jars and trays and anything else that gets touched," he said.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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