How Founder & Owner Of Grupo Gitano, James Gardner, Is Reopening His NYC Destination Safely

James GardnerPhoto Credit: Gitano

After months of the hospitality industry being forced to shut down in Manhattan—the former epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak—New York City is moving forward, entering into their next phase of reopenings, which allows restaurants to welcome back diners to their destinations. It’s understandable that some may be wary of leaving the house and heading out to a restaurant, which is why James Gardner, Founder & Owner of Grupo Gitano and his team are ensuring that they do everything possible on their end to make guests feel safe upon entering their establishments.

Here, we chat with the hospitality expert on some of the new procedures being implemented into his restaurants, why people should feel safe dining there and what lessons he’s learned as a hospitality industry leader during this unprecedented time.

HL: How is Gitano looking to set an example for New York restaurants to safely open?

JG: We have implemented a number of creative and innovative changes to make sure our guests and team are safe:
1. Tropical Distancing—within our 24,000 square-foot outdoor restaurant venue, we have lots of space for social distancing, spreading tables 6 feet apart or more, and using hundreds of tropical plants strategically to create private gardens.
2. Automation & Contactless Technology—we have integrated technology solutions to automate the steps of service from the point of arrival. Guests will join waitlists with a QR code, all ordering and payment will be accessible via smartphone, delivered right to your table with no paper menus or servers. Instead, we will have “Super Severs and Hosts” to guide and entertain our guests.
3. Next Level Health & Safety Plan—we are building outdoor, open-air handwashing stations with contactless faucets to allow guests and the team to frequently wash their hands without going inside to the restrooms. We are appointing Sanitary Agents whose entire job will be to continuously deep clean, we will be using electrostatic sprayers and Bioprotect antimicrobial surface protectant—a two-step hospital-grade solution that cleans and protects surfaces for table turnovers and hospital-grade sanitation every night. All of our team will wear PPE including custom face masks and visors.

GitanoPhoto Credit: Gitano

HL: What are some of the protocols you are following in your venues? 

JG: To expand on the information listed above, starting with the Garden of Love, the team will adhere to regulations with jumpsuits inspired by futuristic space suits, tropical face masks, gloves, and rainbow visor shades for hosts, servers and bartenders. In addition, Gitano is fully automating the steps of service, from ordering to payment processing, everything will be ordered online at the table with QR codes. This will be fun, safe and efficient. The menu will boast a new sealed and eco-packaged item, a delicious picnic basket. The Garden of Love in particular offers a unique tropical dining experience set in a 24,000 square foot open tropical jungle park in the center of downtown Manhattan. This will be an idyllic immersive dining experience… travel to Tulum without taking a flight!

HL: Why should diners feel safe coming to one of your popular establishments?

JG: We have always taken health & safety very seriously and believe that we have developed a safety plan that meets and exceeds requirements and we have integrated it into the guest experience in a way that is safe, reassuring, and fun.

GitanoPhoto Credit: Gitano

HL: What are some of the permanent effects of COVID-19 on your restaurants/bars?

JG: I think a lot of the changes will have a significant positive impact on our service level, the guest experience and the bottom line.

HL: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned throughout this time?

JG: To breathe, take a step back, take time to focus on the details and important things that often get missed in the normal—well the old normal—chaotic pace. We always welcome a challenge, however big or small, as a time to think differently and be creative, which we have certainly done during this time.