Hungry to be wined and dined at Sarasota Restaurants

After 15 months of collective hibernation, it feels like the school bell has rung for the summer break and the entire student body is bursting through the doors, and the feeling of jubilation that we are FREE! 

For nearly a year and change we have had to alter our dining habits; instead of dining in restaurants, we ordered curbside pickup, delivery and to-go. We also donned chefs’ hats as we honed our personal culinary skills. The good news: with the rising number of vaccinations, the flood gates are opening and people are emerging from their homes.

Right now, we have one common goal, the desire to get back to dining out, and it seems we’re coming out in droves. Restaurants are packed with guests hungry to be wined and dined and looking forward to not having to do the dishes.

Our culinary community is filled with innovative and talented chefs and mixologists. We are known around the world for our food, beaches, and our hospitality. So, it’s no wonder that many of our dining establishments are packed every night.  But we should remind ourselves that even though businesses are back open, they are not back to 100% just yet. Unfortunately, restaurants were hit hard all the way around during the last year; loss of business, increase in prices, and there is the issue of staff - restaurant owners lost a majority of their employees during the shutdown. (You can’t zoom a dining experience.)

The Elephant in the Room:  

Let’s just get this out of the way… 

A major side effect of the pandemic is that owners across the country are having to rebuild their staff, both front of house and kitchen, from the ground up. Michael Klauber, co-proprietor of Michael’s on East, said “We are lucky, we were able to pivot to delivery and to-go to keep our core people working, and now we’ve pivoted again, adding outdoor seating in our atrium.  And to make sure that we are able to provide our guests with the Michael’s experience, we’ve transitioned to online reservations, this way we can manage how many tables are available based on staff.”    

Michael’s on East
1212 East Ave., Sarasota, FL 34239

Staffing is an issue; it’s a fact of life right now and it can impede your dining experience if you allow it to.  We spoke with a few of our partners and asked them to give is some suggestions and tips to make sure you have a delicious time dining out in Sarasota.

Kimberly Lacewell - Michael's on East
Kimberly Lacewell - Michael's on East

Reservations:  Setting a time and sticking to it: 

Face it, we are famished for some dining out action, but the game has changed a bit since the “great quarantine of 2020”. The goal for restaurants is give their guests the best experience, using all their resources. A vital resource is managing the flow of guests at any given time, and their magic key is reservations.  Amore co-owner Liana Vitorino said the most effective tool is her reservation system, it helps her guarantee that her guests will be happy.  “I am able to manage the flow of guests so that it doesn’t overwhelm the servers and the kitchen. We occasionally have a party make a reservation, and then they show up really early, unfortunately early arrivals will throw the system off. We get they are excited to come to dinner and we’re extremely excited to see them, however there is a limit to what our team can handle.”  Liana adds, “If you come before your designated time, please be patient. We will do our best; our priority is to give every guest the personalized service they deserve.”   

Amore Restaurant
180 N Lime Ave, Sarasota, FL 34237
(941) 383-1111

Be prepared and have a plan of action:

We know that there are going to be wait times, so how to make the best of the situation. Stephanie Brown, general manager of Pop’s Sunset Grill in Nokomis, recommends doing a little prep work before arriving at the restaurant, for example: take advantage of Pop’s online waitlist. “To ensure our guests have the best time possible, and reduce any potential wait time, we offer our online waitlist through our website Once you get here, there is plenty to do while waiting for your table. You can bar hop to three different bars on our property, we have live music every night and you can shop in the Pops Bou-Tiki to pick up a souvenir or two.” She also added, “You can grab a drink and hang out on the dock watching for dolphins, and we’ll text you when your table is ready.”

Pop's Sunset Grill

112 Circuit Rd, Nokomis, FL 34275
(941) 488-3177 

Guest Comfort Level: To Mask or Not to Mask that is the Question

Masks have become a part of our daily routine. We’ve bought masks to complement our outfits, match our eyes, and keep us from spreading our germs. It’s become the norm before we venture out of the house, we go through the list: Keys – check, Wallet/purse – check, mask – check.

We are still traversing the waters of safety protocols.  As much as we want normal, there are still diners who are erring on the side of caution. One of the challenges restauranteurs are facing is how to address their guests’ safety concerns. Mila Aguiar, general manager at 1592 | Wood Fired Kitchen & Cocktails on Main Street said, “it will be a while until we figure out mask etiquette, we still have some guests that are not comfortable around servers who aren’t wearing masks.”    

Edward Zaki, Mila Aguiar and Exec Chef Alexandre Gosselin - 1592 | Wood Fired Kitchen & Cocktails
Edward Zaki, Mila Aguiar and Exec Chef Alexandre Gosselin - 1592 | Wood Fired Kitchen & Cocktails

Mila encourages diners to inform the person seating them if they would prefer their server wear a mask when at the table. Mila said, “We believe hospitality is the key to success in the restaurant industry. Our only goal is to build real relationships with our guests, and that they trust we will take care of them. We will always strive to ensure our guests have a memorable experience.” 

1592 | Wood Fired Kitchen & Cocktails
1592 Main Street, Sarasota, FL 34236
(941) 365-2234

Michael’s on East has created a system that makes life easier. Michael Klauber said, “We created a special system to address guests’ comfort level. All staff that is certified as fully vaccinated, and past the two-week waiting period, wear a custom designed “V” pin, so they don’t “have” to wear a mask. But they still have them in case a guest prefers that extra layer of protection.”

The united goal among Sarasota’s hospitality industry is to make sure the guests have a spectacular experience. But guests have to play their part too – with some patience and understanding.  We will get there, together… it may take a little time but until then, let’s be kind to each other, and give one another a little leeway… it’s been a hell of a year, we could all use a drink!