Local server reflects on changes in restaurant industry

COMMUNITY UNITY: In the two weeks since Wicked Weed reopened for in-person dining, server Horus Runako has watched customers enjoy a slow return to normalcy. New safety measures have been an adjustment to staff but will ultimately help the brewpub run more efficiently. Photo courtesy of Horus Runako

There was trepidation and adjustment among the staff at Wicked Weed Brewing as the brewery’s flagship brewpub reopened to dine-in customers on May 23. But the overwhelming feeling was one of unity and community, explains Horus Runako, a server and bartender who is nearing two years working at Wicked Weed’s Biltmore Avenue location.

His job didn’t stop in quarantine. When Gov. Roy Cooper ordered restaurants to cease all in-person dining in mid-March, Runako began assisting with Wicked Weed’s to-go food and beer delivery. The distraction was nice — there wasn’t much going on at home, he says, and the opportunity to earn some extra money sweetened the deal.

When he’s not working as a server, Runako is an actor. He’s landed roles on the Oprah TV show Greenleaf, the TV show Manhunt, and he recently did a commercial for Champion Credit Union. Because of the pandemic, most productions are on hold, making auditions hard to come by.

The first night the brewpub reopened was intense, he recalls. In an effort to mitigate as much direct contact as possible, Wicked Weed is now using an online menu that customers can access by scanning a QR code on their phones. When it’s time to pay the bill, customers scan a different QR code that directs them to a digital payment screen.

“As a busy server, I’m constantly running around in a scramble trying to keep everything organized. Sometimes, you just forget to pick up a check,” Runako says. “It’s strange, in this attempt to make things safer, they’re doing all of these things to increase efficiency and take steps to help service run smoother.”

Now, more than two weeks after the initial rush to get back to a restaurant, Runako sees customers searching for a return to normalcy, one beer at a time.

“There’s this general air of timid optimism that I’m seeing, including among co-workers,” he explains. “It’s the beginning of summer and people just seem happy to be out of their house. Being stuck in quarantine really took a toll on everyone, and there’s this sense of people coming together after a time of trauma. People are willing to wait an hour because they really want to drink a beer and have a conversation and be social.”

SHARE

Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.