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How 2020 changed the restaurant industry in Baton Rouge

It’s no secret that one of the largest industries impacted by COVID-19 has been the service industry—especially restaurants. Across the country, much-loved eateries have had to adapt to shifting guidelines, and some have even had to close their doors. From online menus to to-go drinks, here’s a look back at how the pandemic has changed how we dined out in 2020, specifically around Baton Rouge. 


Outdoor dining at Thai Kitchen. Photo by Collin Richie

Outdoor dining

The need for social distancing forced Baton Rouge restaurateurs to get creative. They could no longer fit their usual numbers of patrons indoors, so outdoor seating became the next best option. Places like Overpass Merchant set up tents in their parking lots, complete with tables, chairs and heaters for the cold weather. Restaurants like DiGiulio Brothers and Zealand Street simply expanded into their parking lots, somehow making gravel and cement feel just as cozy as their indoor dining. Restaurants like Beausoleil took it a step further and expanded their outdoor area, complete with a fenced in patio and umbrellas. Browse 225‘s list of Baton Rouge restaurants offering outdoor seating.


Stock photo

Online menus

With the worry of multiple hands sharing and passing around physical menus, restaurant owners turned to tech. Reusable menus were swapped for QR codes, usually appearing on some sort of placard on each table. QR codes proved to be beneficial in a lot of ways. Not only do they help to slow the spread of germs, restaurants aren’t wasting paper printing new and updated menus. Now, online menus can be swapped out, added to, or edited with just a few clicks of a mouse and taps on a keyboard. 


Rocca. Photo by Collin Richie

Takeout and delivery

Delivery services like the Louisiana-born Waitr app have always been popular, but when the stay-at-home order was implemented in March they became a necessity for diners and restaurant owners alike. To avoid paying delivery services’ often-high fees, some restaurants developed their own takeout and delivery systems. In the early days of the pandemic, staff at restaurants like Rocca took to cars or bikes to hand deliver meals. And while demand for takeout may not be quite as high now as it was in the spring, restaurant owners have continued to perfect the art of serving food in takeout boxes.


To-go drinks around Baton Rouge. Photo by Collin Richie

To-go drinks

With restaurant and bar restrictions constantly fluctuating, to-go drinks were a genius move. Being stuck at home doesn’t make customers want their favorite cocktails any less. Places like Superior Grill have opened a drive-thru pick-up station to make ordering their famous margaritas and frozen French 75s even easier, and other places across town like Bin 77, Mid City Beer Garden and Mid Tap also offer their cocktails for pick up. 


Millennial Park was home to several drive-in movie events this year. Photo courtesy Millennial Park

Social distancing

Social distancing has brought a lot of change to every public space, but especially restaurants. The obvious change is spreading out the seating. Restaurants can only keep a certain amount of tables open, which draws down profit, and also draws down the amount of social interaction patrons can have inside. LSU on-campus tailgating was banned this football season, causing problems for local caterers who depend heavily on the season. Lastly, drive-in movies saw a rise in popularity. At places like Millennial Park and Perkins Rowe, drive-in movies provided the perfect opportunity for food truck vendors to cater to a large volume of customers. 


White Star Market closed permanently in March. File photo

Closings

Because the first wave of restrictions forced local places to close, social distancing drove customer numbers down, and with less people dining out, Baton Rouge lost some of its favorite institutions this year. While we may be mourning these incredibly significant losses, we can’t wait to see and support what those owners and employees have in store for the future.


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