Step aside mixologists, masters of wine and VIP wranglers, because a new kid has rolled into restaurant town. The newly christened sanitiser sommelier was unveiled when Sydney's hatted The Gantry restaurant served its first set of 10 customers at the weekend. The Gantry's sanitiser sommelier came packing, pushing a cart – packed higher than a yum cha trolley – full of luxury sanitisers.
COVID-19 hasn't exactly provided a job boom in hospitality, but across Sydney a new breed of workers sprayed their way into a new era. Some jokingly call themselves the new minister for health, or clean team leader.
Outside the newly reopened Jimmy's Falafel on George Street a staff member is tasked singularly with spraying hands and distributing single use menus. Across the harbour, at Aqua Dining restaurant, a team member surgically cleans between sittings.
"The trolley is a big nod to cleanliness, but we thought we'd have a bit of fun with it," says Kim Mahaffy, general manager at Pier One Sydney Harbour, home to The Gantry.
The restaurant reached out to 10 local distillers already pivoting into the sanitiser market. Guests can choose from a grapefruit, cassia and cardamom scented varietal from Archie Rose, a cheeky native spice-driven creation from Brix Distillers and a coffee-lovers' number from Mr Black x Distillery Botanica.
"The Manly Spirits sanitiser is like a martini on your hands," says Mahaffy, who is so serious about the new position she will rotate the role between two designated staff members. The Gantry has brought a hospital-like discipline to hygiene, cutting down on handling by letting customers pick up their own glasses and chefs delivering food to the table.
Some restaurants would have found the segue to this new, highly sanitised world easier than others. At DS Music Restaurant, in Taiwan, waitstaff have always worn nurses' uniforms and drinks served from drip bottles and giant syringes. At the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas, it is custom for guests to wear hospital gowns. All good, clean fun.