From quick and easy Feed Me menus to exclusive dinner parties in private rooms, Canberra's restaurants are already looking for ways to get diners back in house.
The ACT government eased coronavirus restrictions earlier this week allowing a 10-customer limit, alongside other stringent requirements and while many Canberra restaurants and cafes won't reopen to dining in several are taking a gamble and reopening the doors.
At XO in Narrabundah there will be two sittings, seven nights a week, as well as a lunch sitting Tuesday to Friday.
"We have been greatly anticipating this announcement and intend on taking full advantage - even if in small numbers," says co-owner Greg Lally.
"It is undoubtedly important to get customers in, but never at the compromise of the health and safety of the community and our staff. For the foreseeable future, our focus will remain on takeaway to ensure sustainability of our businesses, but we are welcoming the opportunity to deliver our experience in-house again.
"We will embark on a new approach by offering our patrons a set menu which will be rotated weekly, while ensuring we continue to offer a number of XO staples to keep our long standing patrons happy."
Lally said the support from customers during the lockdown has got them through.
"I continue to be impressed with the collaborative and supporting attitude of both our staff and patrons as we seek to adapt our business, personal and working lives to these events," he said.
XO will continue to offer takeaway. The first bookings for in-house open from Monday.
Assembly in Braddon also opens for in-house on Monday and is one of the few places offering walk-ins, albeit just for breakfast and lunch. Dinner will be offered Thursday through Sunday with special packages for groups of up to 10 people.
Owner Wes Heincke reckons he's the only pub in town that's been selling more coffee than beer lately, he's even been back on the coffee machine himself. He's looking forward to having diners in house.
"We've got a 500-seat venue so we have space to get people in," Heincke says. "The information I'm getting from the Australian Hospitality Association and the ACT government at the moment is that I can continue to serve my takeaway and run the small bottle shop we have set up in the front section of the bar and have people come in and out even if we have the 10 people dining inside."
He said Assembly was 90 per cent down in trade, "but it could have been really bad".
"Before we weren't competing with Rye Cafe or Zaab or the other shops in the street and then all of a sudden when we're doing takeaway, we're at the same level," he says. "The competition increases which makes it more challenging but it's important to have a crack and stay relevant and not stay dormant for too long."
At Zaab owner Becky Khanthavongsa will open from noon on Saturday, May 16, for four in-house sessions throughout the day. There will be sittings at noon, 5pm, 7pm and 9pm for up to 10 people. You have to pre-book and order food from their Feed Me menu. Prices start at $59pp for five dishes and for $79pp you get six dishes and two cocktails.
Khanthavongsa says she'll pour every cocktail with extra love now. Zaab has been selling cocktails in a bag along with their takeaway options and they have been extremely popular.
"Those cocktails in the bag have kept us alive," she says. "The amount of marketing they've generated was insane. I am so thankful we had those ready to go. And yes, they will continue on the menu."
- For a more comprehensive listing of who is offering dining-in options see Tuesday's Food & Wine liftout. If your restaurant or cafe would like to be included email firstname.lastname@example.org