In the immortal words of Christopher Guest as Count Rugen in The Princess Bride, “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.”
Despite being a turd, Rugen isn’t wrong.
As the Twin Cities’ restaurant scene navigates the finer points of pivoting to takeout through May 1, many customers fret about the safety of ordering takeout, from a viral perspective.
Serious Eats’ Kenji Lopez-Alt assembled a (seriously) comprehensive informational round-up about whether one can become infected with coronavirus from takeout, answering questions like “Am I more likely to get COVID-19 from take-out, delivery, or cooking at home?” and “Is it better to support local businesses by ordering food, or am I only putting workers and delivery people at risk?”
The tl;dr version, per Donald Schaffner, professor of food science at Rutgers University:
First it’s important to realize that this is a respiratory illness as far as we know. The biggest risk is being around sick people who are shedding the virus when they sneeze or cough. Even if the virus did get onto food, we’re going to put that food in our mouth and swallow it so the virus will end up in our stomach. Our stomachs have a low pH which would likely in activate the virus.
Taking into account all of the above, as well as this era's pervasive uncertainty, Minneapolis’s Muddy Waters found an ingenious way of steering clear of Rugen's Pit of Despair. Uptown's iconic bar, restaurant, and coffee shop owned by Paddy Whelan and Sarah Schrantz has adapted to circumstance, including an architectural representation of food safety and security.
Channeling a sense of powerlessness that transcends industries, Schrantz’s husband, Sims of Doomtree, collaborated with Street Factory Media to design what they’re calling the "Safe Serve Door System." It works like an addition to standard front doors of restaurants and retailers, creating a walk-up “drive-thru” window experience.
For places like Muddy’s, its function is simple: the Safe Serve Door reduces physical interaction, thereby limiting the risk of person-to-person exposure, for full service restaurants adapting to curbside and takeout demand.
“We realized a lot of places without a drive-thru were dealing with the same problem and thought we could help,” said Matt Kelly, co-founder of Street Factory.
All of this is achieved at minimal cost, without fundamentally altering the building's existing structure. So when this passes – because one day, it will – these Safe Serve Doors can be repurposed as sampling stations for future events.
And, to be clear, this isn't a one-off: They are available to businesses beyond Muddy Waters.
"We're trying to keep as many businesses afloat, and employees in jobs as we possibly can," says Sims. "Safe Serve Doors are not just applicable to restaurants—all different types of retail could benefit from them. The coolest thing to me is that these are so easily repurposed, so they can live on down the line with a new function. I feel like the gesture shouldn't be wasteful, it should be about adaptability."
To instill a final, visual vote of confidence in all of humanity (but also customers), Muddy’s new door is emblazoned on the front with a giant OK sign, on whose fingers are scrawled “WE’VE GOT THIS.”
As Sims explains, "That's a photo of [fellow Doomtree member] Paper Tiger's wife Diana's hand tattoo. She sent that photo to Sarah the other day as a little 'Hang in there bb.'"
Indeed, it is ingenious design concepts like these that will keep us all hanging in there, together, for a long time to come.
2933 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis