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South Florida Restaurant Owners, Chefs Coming Up With Plans To Operate In The "New Normal"

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - With most restaurants in South Florida opening up later this month, owners and chefs are busy strategizing their new business plans in an arena they've never imagined before.

CBS4's Lisa Petrillo spoke with one South Florida chef about his plan for the new normal.

Just a few weeks before the virus came crashing into South Florida full throttle, Petrillo sat down with chef Michael Beltran and his business partner chef Justin Flitt at their newest endeavor, Navé, in Coconut Grove.

This is the third Grove-based restaurant for Beltran, who also owns Ariete just next door and Chugs: A Cuban Diner.

"We wanted to continue to grow the community of Coconut Grove and with food, and great food, that's the perfect start," he said back in early March.

That interview never aired on television. Now, two months later, Beltran chatted with Petrillo over Zoom where he explained how all has changed.

"We are just kind of like treading water. It's one of those things," he said.

That's not to say he and his much smaller team aren't working hard.

"Ariete and Navé now share a kitchen and we basically put our menus together, we do our own delivery, we don't use any third-party delivery service, and we do take out," Beltran said.

Chugs is doing take out and also a full-on creative market place.

In mid-March Beltran laid off 134 employees, but thankfully he's now been able to bring some of them back.

"If they were a prep cook before, they are a grocery clerk now. If they were working the grill station, maybe they are working the egg station at Chugs. If they were a busboy, maybe they are doing delivery now. Everyone has been open to whatever they can do to help," he said.

Beltran said when restaurants do open up, the limited capacity indoor rule will be tough for some and impossible for others.

"Fortunately enough, all three of our locations have large patios, we will be able to be creative, but for people who have a patio that seats two tables, I don't know what they are going to do," he said.

Going forward, he added, this new normal isn't anything anyone in the restaurant business can completely predict.

"It's going to take more time for us to understand how this works long term. Even if we can open tomorrow, it's not going to be like it was for us to get back like it was. It's going to take a long period of time, so it's all about patience," he said.

It is all about patience as businesses as we, the consumer, venture out into unchartered territory.

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