COVID-era dining this winter presents industry challenges, opportunity for Detroit start-up

Man allegedly dines and dashes, leaves bill with dates
Posted at 4:14 AM, Oct 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-07 07:13:18-04

(WXYZ) — Tucked away in one of Detroit's oldest neighborhoods, new restaurant EastEats doesn't look like your typical dining set-up, and that's exactly what co-owners Lloyd Talley and Kwaku Osei-Bonsu had in mind.

Several dining "domes" are positioned in the middle of the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood, surrounded by a wooden picket fence.

“We came together to think about how could we keep social connection and human connection in a time when we have to be socially distant," Talley said. "And we thought why not do it somewhere in a part of Detroit that really could use some love right now."

He and Osei-Bonsu designed the restaurant concept around the physical space, and not the other way around.

EastEats, which has its soft opening this week until Thursday and launches its official grand opening on Friday, is by reservation only for parties of two to eight people.

The menu is mostly vegan, and combines flavors of eastern staples with Detroit's east side.

“Right now our menu is southeast Asian, primarily Asian fusion tacos and bao buns," Osei-Bonsu said.

The food is prepared in a food truck on site. Starting next month, you'll be able to order your food online, so that the entire experience at EastEats is cashless and contact-less.

Servers will wear masks, and there will be outdoor restrooms available on site also.

The grand opening is coming at a time when the restaurant industry is facing a bleak winter season, economist Trey Malone told 7 Action News.

“Year over year sales for each month since the pandemic has begun are down 30 to 50 percent each month for restaurants across the country," he said.

One in six restaurants nationwide closed. And during the spring, patio space was key to keeping revenue flowing, both here in metro Detroit and around the country.

“That window of opportunity is closing quickly," said Malone, who also teaches at Michigan State.

In Royal Oak, city commissioners voted unanimously to extend outdoor dining permits until April 30, 2021 -- meaning it's likely here will be plenty of heaters and people bundled up to enjoy a meal.

As for EastEats, the domes are designed to function year-round, not just in the winter, as other dining igloos do.

“We have the option in about November to switch them over to completely closed igloo domes that will be heated," Osei-Bonsu said.

As for air circulation, the domes do have windows, but they're also designed to allow for additional airflow, Osei-Bonsu said. “The structure of our platforms allows for air to escape regularly.”

EastEats' grand opening is Friday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 6:45 p.m.

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