Wednesday, May 20, 2020

What's Next?

I was very grateful to have been asked to participate in a Facebook Live discussion on “Check Please! South Florida” earlier this week with host Michelle Bernstein, Palm Beach chef Lindsay Autry, and Fort Lauderdale food writer Mike Mayo, to talk about the future of the South Florida restaurant industry in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to all who joined us live; if you missed it and want to watch, I've embedded it above and you can find it here: “Check Please! Conversation with Michelle Bernstein."[1]

I wrote down a lot of notes in preparation for the talk, and thought it would be worth sharing and expanding on some of those here. Many of these thoughts will not be anything new if you've been following the effect of this crisis on the restaurant world and food supply chains. But as we reach an inflection point – this week Miami-Dade County began the process of lifting “shelter in place” orders and authorized restaurants to reopen with limited capacity – it seemed a good time to think about where we’ve been and what’s to come.


Let me start by saying how much I admire the resilience, the resourcefulness, the perseverance, and the care for their employees, their customers, and the community at large displayed by so many chefs and restaurant operators. When this crisis and shutdown hit, the immediate reaction from so many of the folks I know was to help: to try to take care of the employees they had to lay off as best they could, and then to provide meals and groceries for first responders, laid off workers, and anyone in the community who might be struggling to find a meal.

I do business bankruptcies for a living, and in my career have never seen a greater challenge – not just because of the shutdown, but because of the uncertainty of what comes next. To be looking to help others, while the businesses they’ve spent years of hard work and money building are facing a genuinely existential threat, is a truly remarkable response, but one that seems to come naturally to so many who have chosen this path.

(continued ...)


In the first days of the shutdown, I reached out to restaurant friends I knew via Instagram to try and see how to be useful, and that wound up turning into something of a chat group for over 150 local industry folks to share information and pool resources. It’s been incredibly gratifying to see everyone helping each other deal with issues ranging from securing masks, to deciphering the shutdown orders, to sizing up takeout and delivery options, to wading through liquor law regulations, to navigating the relief programs, to finding a refrigerator repair guy.

There are several national and N.Y. based employee relief organizations and I’m sure they’re doing great work. When this first hit, what I wanted to find was something locally based, but that would have broader impact than the individual funds several restaurants set up. So I was thrilled when I saw that Felix Bendersky from F+B Hospitality Brokerage and Brad and Soroya Kilgore from Alter started a Miami Restaurant Employee Relief Fund to help get money to laid off hospitality workers in our community, and were quickly joined by several other community pillars including Michelle Bernstein, Michael Schwartz, Zak Stern, and Mike Beltran. That fund has raised over a hundred thousand dollars which is going directly to out-of-work staff at dozens of restaurants and bars in Miami. (If you’d like to contribute: Miami Restaurant Employee Relief Fund).

I was gratified to see the South Beach Wine and Food Festival show up a couple weeks later with an Industry Relief Fund backed by a million dollars in contributions from its sponsors, and which Lee Schrager is continuing to support with Sunday Bake Sales in Coral Gables. There are also several organizations using existing restaurant kitchens to help feed those in need: World Central Kitchen, Food Rescue Miami, Frontline Foods, All Day’s F&B Industry Grocery Relief Program, industry family meals provided by Grails, Jaguar Sun, and many, many others.

To be honest, I was hoping to see more from the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. Their “Miami Eats” site has been useful for promoting restaurants that have started takeout and delivery, and I’m particularly grateful for GMCVB’s efforts to encourage diners to use commission-free options directly from the restaurants where possible. But local restaurants need much more than promotion. Maybe now is the time for GMCVB to really step up to the plate with disaster recovery relief, as restaurants look to make their way through the process of reopening, The City of Miami Beach has started using an emergency reserve fund to provide a grant program to sustain artistic and cultural organizations. GMCVB has a substantial disaster recovery fund and should be using it to help restaurants resume operations.

There’s been a real effort by many South Florida politicians to find ways to help. I think Marco Rubio, who was out in front on the CARES Act, deserves credit for that on the national level, and for trying to fix the problems that have become apparent as the Act has been implemented. Locally a couple people in particular – State Rep. Dotie Joseph and State Senator Jason Pizzo – I’ve found to be particularly responsive and helpful.


Unfortunately, the Paycheck Protection loan program in the CARES Act is proving to be of limited usefulness to most restaurants. To qualify for forgiveness they’re required to use most of the loan proceeds on payroll in the two months after taking out the loan; but they’ve not been in a position to bring back those employees since they’re either shut down completely or have been restricted to only takeout and delivery with a drastically reduced workforce. Restaurants can’t just hold the loan proceeds until they’re ready to reopen, and they can’t use the loan for the capital expenses they’re going to have to incur if they want to reopen: things like sanitizer stations and plexiglass shields and revamping A/C systems and PPE for their employees.[2]

Even in the coming weeks, those that choose to open are going to be limited: you can operate at 50% capacity, but that doesn’t change your fixed costs like rent. Mason Hereford from Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans maybe said it best: “[T]aking on a loan that you have to pay back in two years with a whack-ass, COVID-19-depressed business model is a set-up for failure.”

There are organizations – particularly the Independent Restaurant Coalition – that are working hard to try to fix these problems through proposed changes to the CARES Act, pushing for a restaurant stabilization fund that would provide a more flexible and long term source of capital for restaurants to navigate the shutdown and reopening process, and lobbying for insurers to be required to cover business income losses caused by COVID related closures.

But the only way this can work is if everyone works together: landlords will need to make some concessions, and for that to happen, their lenders are going to have to make some concessions too. It’s easy to say “There should be rent forgiveness,” but those landlords usually have mortgages to pay themselves. And I should know, I represent some of them. The reality, though, is that every step you take up that chain, the person on the next rung is usually better capitalized and equipped to deal with the delay and disruption. And it’s also a reality that restaurant operators won’t be able to maintain rents that were predicated on full use of the premises if they’re only able to operate at 50% capacity, in a market where demand is likely to be depressed for some time.

Maybe one possibility is some form of property tax credit for property owners who provide a subsidy or rent forgiveness to their tenants. Of course, yet another problem is that our state government tax revenues are already going to take a huge hit as a result of reduced business activity, which means government expenditures and services are going to have to be significantly cut back as well. But if a tax credit were stretched out over time, it could enable the impact – and benefit – to be spread out and temper the immediate blow. Maybe think of it as a way of "flattening the curve" for the commercial real estate market?

As restaurants that have continued to operate have been entirely dependent on takeout and delivery, another thing that's become clear is that the big name third party delivery companies are awful and are doing nothing to actually help the restaurants. What a lot of customers may not understand is while GrubHub and UberEats say they're waiving or reducing "delivery fees” to help restaurants, they’re still extracting commissions from those restaurants for every order, typically as much as 30%. So while you as the customer may not be paying a delivery fee, the restaurant is paying a hefty fee to fulfill that order for you. And for the most part, the services have not discounted those commissions at all in the midst of the current crisis, even as their delivery business is booming. There’s no way it can possibly make economic sense in a traditional restaurant setting if that’s now your only business. And it makes me angry every time I see one of those GrubHub or UberEats ads acting like they’re a champion for the industry they’re preying on.[3]

So if there’s one thing I tell diners who are looking to support restaurants while eating at home, it’s this: order directly from the restaurant. A lot of them are setting up their own websites and doing both takeout and even delivery in-house, without paying a delivery app nearly a third of every sale.[4] Many will do curbside or contactless pickup. And if they don’t have a website – I know it feels weird in this day and age, but pick up your phone and call! It can actually be nice to have a bit of human interaction these days.[5]


This is probably the longest I've gone without going out to dinner in 25 years. We’re healthy and safe, but I am going through a bit of withdrawal. My last restaurant meal was March 11 at Balloo. Mrs. F was out of town, I popped in solo on the way home from work, ran into a friend at the next table, had a fantastic meal of Timon’s curried calabaza and some garlic chili crab noodles and a bunch of other things he sent out, and had a great big bear hug with Timon – which I think was my last physical contact with someone who isn’t a member of my family. (We’re both fine.)

Not that we haven't been eating well during quarantine. Maybe the biggest silver lining of this crisis has been the number of great restaurants now doing takeout and delivery, and cooking kits, and working with local farms to directly sell fruits and vegetables, and offering other restaurant quality products straight to customers.

takeout from Ghee
In the past couple months we’ve eaten at home from most of my favorite restaurants: Ghee, Boia De, Ariete, Balloo, Mignonette, Niu Kitchen, Alter, Macchialina, Silverlake BistroPhuc Yea, Fooq’s, Josh’s Deli, Taquiza, Yakko SanSurf Club. I’ve also been engaged in an intensive two-month study of the relative virtues of our local bagel-makers, with El Bagel and Zak the Baker dueling it out for the top spots.[6]

Banh Mi from Benh Mis
So many folks are doing great little pop-ups: Michelle Bernstein is doing Friday night fried chicken dinners. Ben Murray from Pao is doing awesome DIY “Benh Mi” banh mi sandwiches. Detroit style pizza is having its moment in the sun, with Square Pie City (Jeremiah Bullfrog) and Old Greg’s (a/k/a Greg Tetzner) dishing out square pies. Lil Laos is doing great Laotian food at Sixty10. You can get dim sum from Li’s Dim Sum (Ray Li from El Cielo, and before that, Palmar) and Zitz Sum (Pablo Zitzmann, who was at No Name Chinese). Roel Alcudia from Mandolin is selling lumpia (Filipino spring rolls). Bobby Frank at Mignonette is doing an occasional ramen pop-up.

Proper Sausages pork chops, Boia De polenta, Paradise Farms
 oyster mushrooms via All Day, Chef Jeremiah brined tomatoes
For a while you couldn’t find anything in the grocery stores; but you could get incredible restaurant quality products direct from the restaurants and from restaurant suppliers like Chef’s Warehouse.[7] We’ve been able to get fantastic produce straight from local farms via Little River Cooperative, Proper Sausages, All Day and Chug’s Diner. I’ve gotten fresh pasta made by Justin Flit at Navé to cook at home. I’ve gotten fantastic wine from restaurant wine lists at retail prices. The more we’ve avoided the big grocery stores, the better we’ve eaten. The past couple months have both demonstrated how broken our food supply chain is, and possibly shown some paths towards fixing it.


Even though we’ve been eating really well, what the past couple months have made clear is what's missing. It’s funny – I usually don’t care a lot about ambience, I’m not much on service unless it’s really outrageously terrible. For me it’s usually all about the food. But what I’ve felt over the past couple months is how much I really love and miss the people and the experience of being in a restaurant, of being taken care of, of sharing that joy with others.

It’s just staggering the number of people employed by the restaurant industry who have been put out of work by this pandemic, almost all of whom were already living paycheck to paycheck. And it’s also just staggering how many restaurants – especially independent restaurants, the ones that make South Florida unique and special and such a great place to dine, and that don’t have the same financial backing and support as the big chains – are facing a truly existential crisis.

So for them, and for myself, nobody is more eager to see restaurants reopen than me.

As I write this, Miami-Dade County is letting restaurants reopen as of Monday May 18 at 50% capacity and with a 175-page book of operating requirements and guidelines. Some municipalities have chosen to push that date back to May 27, including City of Miami and Miami Beach. I’ve already seen several reopening announcements. Niven Patel at Ghee – who was just recognized as a “Best New Chef” by Food and Wine magazine – has already reopened his Dadeland restaurant. Bourbon Steak in Aventura is reopening its dining room today. Makoto in Bal Harbour is reopening on Thursday. Ariete is set to open May 27. Restaurants in Palm Beach have already opened, and Lindsay Autry is reopening The Regional in Palm Beach for dinner next week with a revamped concept focused on higher end dinner service, pivoting away from the high-volume, convention center business that was its original model. Many others are only now starting up takeout and delivery service, and may take their time before resuming in-restaurant dining.

And look, it’s going to be weird: half empty restaurants, staff and customers wearing face masks, no hanging out at the bar, and I still don’t know how you maintain distancing when you’re engaged in something as intimate as cooking and serving food. I saw one European restaurant that had set up little individual huts for each table, and had long planks to deliver and retrieve plates (that’s a traditional way to serve polenta, so why not?). I just noticed that one of the restrictions in Miami-Dade is that bar counters must remain closed to seating. This bums me out more than just about anything else I’ve read – that’s always our favorite spot in the house.

And where is everyone going to get all the hand sanitizer and wipes and handwashing stations and masks?

A smart man I know said a couple weeks ago: “I’ve pictured it a million times and there’s nothing sexy about it.” One of the things most of us love about restaurants is that for diners they’re an escape, a place where we don’t have to be reminded of everyday troubles, where someone else has taken care of the food, and the vibe, and will pour the wine and pick up the plates and do the dishes, and we can just relax. And right now, anyway, many people will see empty tables and masks and sanitizer stations as reminders that we’re in the middle of a pandemic that’s killing thousands of people. On the other hand, they can – and perhaps ought to – be seen as signs that a restaurant is taking the well-being of its customers and staff seriously. In other words, this is what hospitality looks like in our current circumstances.

I have to be honest that even with current safeguards, I have a lot of trepidation about sitting down for a meal in a restaurant right now. And I’m not normally what you’d consider a Nervous Nellie: look, I ate fugu several times when we were in Japan, so I’m willing to take my life in my hands for a meal.[8] I’m concerned with whether it’s safe for diners and I’m concerned with whether it’s safe for staff. And I completely understand any restaurant that takes their time in going back to operating with sit-down customers.

And I’m not alone: a survey by Eater Miami with over 1,200 responses reflected that less than a quarter of the respondents are ready to go back to restaurants this week. And nearly 70% will only feel comfortable dining outside (though “comfortable” is maybe not the right term, as we start the hot, rainy season here in South Florida that seems to last until October).

Personally, these are a couple things I want to see:

• More meaningful study of transmission within enclosed spaces. A couple studies seem to show there's airborne transmission by A/C air circulation. One study from a restaurant in China indicated that one infectious diner not only infected four other people at their table of eight – but also two people on the opposite side of another table across from the infectious person, and three of four people at a table behind the infectious person, who were in the same space for about an hour.

• Broader testing and robust contact tracing. It seems clear now that there’s asymptomatic transmission, and that some people may carry the virus without ever experiencing symptoms So even if you’re temperature testing and sending home anyone who’s feeling sick, it may be unavoidable that you’re going to have infectious people in restaurants. I haven’t heard any meaningful details as to how we’re doing contact tracing in Florida, which every expert I’ve read says should be in place before you start lifting restrictions.

I’m concerned for myself and my family. But I’m also concerned for the workers, who really may not have any choice about whether to go back to work and risk exposure – and their risks are so much greater than mine, because they’re in that environment for their entire shift, day after day.[9]

So as much as I miss it, I’m probably not going to be running back into a restaurant this week.

And I think it’s potentially disastrous for a restaurant to reopen, and then find itself to be the source point for a new round of infections. The re-closing, the deep cleaning, the bad PR could be a death knell for an already struggling business.

I know a lot of restaurant owners have the same mixed feelings: financially, for the sake of themselves and their families and their staffs, they want to open and get back to business. And also because it’s what they do and gives them purpose and joy: it’s incredible to me how many folks have told me that they couldn’t see running a “ghost kitchen” with no dining room and no guests, even if it was profitable. But healthwise, for the protection of their guests and their employees, they’re concerned about the potential consequences of reopening their dining rooms.

The more clarity local governments can provide as to operating requirements, and the more transparency that restaurants can provide as to how they’re planning to keep their employees and customers safe, the better this phase of things will be for everyone. The detailed guidelines Miami-Dade County prepared, in consultation with restaurant industry folks like Michelle Bernstein, may seem onerous, but they also provide clarity and some measure of comfort if you can see that a restaurant is following them. José Andrés’ ThinkFood Group just formulated – and made available to everyone – their own internal reopening guidelines. They are comprehensive, thoughtful, practical, and positive, and perhaps more than anything I’ve seen in the past couple months, gave me hope that there is a path through this to the other side. I’ll even forgive the “Masky!” mascot that will make everyone of a certain age think of “Clippy” the Microsoft Office mascot.


Nobody really knows what the future looks like for the restaurant industry, other than that it will be incredibly challenging. But for what it’s worth, here are some of my thoughts.

Mullet Restaurants:

Restaurants are going to need to find a way to generate revenue from their spaces even with limited seating and limited demand. One of the ways I think that can happen is what I’m calling “mullet” restaurants: business in front, party in the back.[10] What I mean by that is some form of all day fast casual service, maybe primarily focusing on takeout / delivery with some limited seating, and maybe with prepared foods or bodega style groceries. And then in the evenings, limited seating and hours, maybe reservation only, for some higher end dining as well.

The restaurant industry has been heading in this direction already – fast-casual on one end and expensive high end on the other, with not much in between. Which is really unfortunate, because I think for most people their ideal restaurant is exactly what’s in between: the casual, neighborhood place with great, interesting food. That kind of independent restaurant probably was, sort of perversely, already maybe the most challenging to run, and it’s only going to be harder. So maybe the way to make it work is to find ways to squeeze more revenue without increasing the fixed costs. You’re paying rent to have that property 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; you’re going to need to find more ways that property can be generating money more of that time.

I just saw that Nina Compton is taking baby steps toward reopening the dining room at her Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans by serving one table a night for a 5-course $85 per person fixed price dinner; you have the whole restaurant to yourself. She sold out the month of June in 20 minutes. I don’t know that turning one table a night is a business model, but as a diner, I love it. On the other side, you’re already seeing some very successful places pivot away from sit-down dining entirely: like Fat Rice in Chicago, a James Beard award winning restaurant that’s making a permanent shift to cooking kits, prepared foods and pantry items.

No All Reservations / Less Choice / More $$$:

I expect the restaurants that reopen their dining rooms will be increasingly dependent on reservations instead of walk-ins to manage seating and staffing. Sit-down dining will be much more appointment based. I just saw that Fiola in Coral Gables is reopening with two fixed seating times, at 6pm and 8pm. As someone who likes making reservations and hates navigating the “no reservations” type places, this is actually a welcome change for me.[11]

Menus are going to be simplified and shortened and dishes for takeout will be crafted with an eye toward how well they travel. Comfort foods will reign supreme. Noma in Copenhagen – maybe the most celebrated, adventurous and ambitious restaurant in the world – is doing cheeseburgers right now. It’s never really been a style of dining that’s had much traction in Miami, but fixed menus may become more prevalent as a way of managing cost and inventory while still satisfying the desire for creativity and artistry. Much as I understand the push toward comfort foods in these times, I have to confess: I miss the cheffy stuff, the things I can’t do at home.

And no matter what, it’s probably going to be a lot more expensive. Less business with the same fixed costs means that something's got to give. Food supply chain disruptions are going to further impact restaurants' variable expenses. Restaurants will have to increase costs or perhaps add "COVID surcharges" to their bills; or they can try to hold steady and eat those costs until we get back to "normal," whenever or whatever that may be.

Outdoor Spaces and Food Halls:

There's some indication – including in CDC guidance released this weekend –  that outdoor environments present less risk than enclosed indoor spaces, and diners clearly perceive that to be the case. Outdoor space is going to be at a premium. I’ve already seen that some cities are closing off streets to let restaurants add additional outdoor seating; hopefully the municipalities here will be flexible and creative on this front. They’re doing it in Downtown Dadeland, and I think I’ve already heard some talk about Miami Beach closing Ocean Drive to cars (too bad there’s nowhere worth eating on Ocean Drive). [Edited to add: Miami Beach has announced they will be temporarily closing parts of Ocean Drive, Washington Avenue, Lincoln Road west, Bay Road and Purdy Avenue in Sunset Harbor, and Ocean Terrace in North Beach to allow expanded outdoor dining.] They could potentially do the same with parts of Calle Ocho, and NW 2nd Avenue in Wynwood or maybe some of the cross streets. Unfortunately that may help some restaurants depending on how they’re physically situated, but not all. We’re going to have extra challenges here in the coming months when it’s blazing hot and rainy and sitting outdoors isn’t nearly as attractive.

While I’ve been dubious about the glut of food halls that have opened in Miami over the past couple years, the food halls actually may be pretty viable options in current circumstances: there’s more space to social distance diners between tables, there’s less interaction between the server and the customer, but there’s still some semblance of atmosphere.

Touchless Transactions:

I hope restaurants find a way to make as many things as possible touchless. I can order anything in the universe on my phone now; we need an app or a website, triggered by scanning a QR code as you enter, where you can look at the menu, maybe even order, and get the bill and pay it on your phone. Much as I hate how everyone already spends too much time with their noses pressed up to their screens, it seems like one way of avoiding multiple potential transmission points. I don’t know about you, but every time I go out now, I’m literally thinking about every single thing I touch.


It's an old trope that out of crisis comes opportunity, but there's some truth to it. Look at New Orleans, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but in its aftermath saw an incredible wave of creative, exciting, adventurous new restaurants. It took a few years to come back, but New Orleans is a much more interesting place to dine now than it was fifteen years ago. It's hard to see right now, but maybe the shakeup we're experiencing can lead to a more sustainable, improved restaurant model for the future.

But it won't be easy. I hope the past couple months serve as a reminder to people of what they love about local restaurants. The chains will still be there, and if not they’ll be replaced by something pretty similar – but the independent local restaurants really need our support to see their way through this. And those are the places we’re going to miss if they don’t survive. That doesn't mean going out to eat if you're not comfortable with it; plenty of places will likely continue doing takeout and delivery for the foreseeable future. As I said during our online conversation: just be generous, and be generous of spirit, as we all make our way through these unprecedented times.


[1] I need to figure out how to get lighting like Mike Mayo.

[2] The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program did very little to help South Florida restaurants. As the Miami Herald reported, a disproportionate amount of the $50 million allocated to the program, which provided short-term one-year loans of up to $50,000 (and in some instances up to $100,000), went to businesses in North Florida. By way of example, Leon County (Tallahassee) received more funding than Miami-Dade County, even though it has one-tenth the population and Miami-Dade has been much more dramatically impacted by COVID-19.

[3] I understand that other platforms, including Tock, Toast and ChowNow provide restaurants with commission-free online ordering and delivery services.

[4] You have to be careful even if you’re Googling to find the restaurant website – often Google and Yelp are linking to third party delivery services rather than the restaurant itself.

[5] Of course, some restaurants don’t have the resources to do it on their own, and depend on the third party apps for their business. In this respect I think the “Delete Your Delivery Apps” call, while understandable, may have the unintended effect of penalizing restaurants that rely on those services.

[6] It is a real toss-up: EB wins on crustiness, while ZTB wins on chewiness, both very important qualities. My study continues.

[7] I’ve got to say, though, that the restaurant quality toilet paper we got is not so great.

[8] I should also acknowledge that this was not because I sought it out, but because it was part of an omakase menu. Also: I think the risks of fugu are generally overstated for dramatic purposes, with proper fish butchering there’s really no risk of poisoning. Also also: it’s …. OK? Certainly not worth risking death over.

[9] I'm also concerned that somehow we've turned wearing masks into a political issue instead of a public health issue, and that restaurant workers are going to have to figure out how to manage customers that refuse to abide by requirements designed to protect both customers and staff, and who may resent servers for doing so themselves. It takes a particularly well-developed sense of entitlement to expect not only that servers put themselves at risk simply by showing up for work, but that they increase their risk just so a customer can see their face. I was disappointed that Hillstone – usually the paradigm of an effectively run restaurant operation – initially refused to allow servers in Texas to wear masks.

[10] I've already said this so often that Mrs. F may hit me if I do it again.

[11] There’s a theory of the universe based on the “Muppets” that the world can be divided into two categories: everyone is either an “Order Muppet” or a “Chaos Muppet.” Chaos Muppets: Ernie; Grover; Cookie Monster; Animal. “Order Muppets”: Bert; Kermit; Sam Eagle. Once you understand this, you realize that the proper functioning of the universe depends on achieving a proper balance of Order Muppets and Chaos Muppets. Anyway, in this respect I’m clearly an Order Muppet.


  1. Hello David - Very good article and Facebook discussion. Being isolated, it is nice getting "outside news and opinions." I was not able to watch the on-line Facebook presentation & had one question - what do you think the future may hold for high end sushi omakase type restaurants like The Den and Kuro Sushi since they are "bar" seating and very hands-on? Thank you for your reviews and stay safe.

    1. Thanks! The omakase sushi question is a really good one - and one I've been thinking about a lot as it's one of my favorite meals. I know of one place that's going to be resuming omakase service next week and I'm looking to find out how they're planning to do it. Seating-wise I think a place like the Den can handle the physical spacing requirements. And your sushi is handled the same whether it's prepared piece by piece or not. (I know pre-COVID there was a big brouhaha up in NYC over requiring sushi chefs to wear gloves.) Will report what I hear. But I think they will find a way (unlike buffets, which I think are dunzo).