Wondering how to eat safely in restaurants as they continue to open up? Coronavirus lockdowns are beginning to end in some places; others will still have a while to wait. But when restaurants do reopen, how does the new normal look when dining in?
As we all continue weathering weeks of quarantine, social distancing, and shelter in place mandates, it’s tough to imagine a world in which it will again be normal to actually enjoy a meal at a restaurant. No more curbside pick-up or takeout? A break from cooking? It’s hard to wrap your head around it!
Eventually, though, restaurants will begin to reopen for in-house dining (in some states, they already are). While it will be a treat to enjoy a meal out (and not in a takeout container), it’s safe to assume that eating at a restaurant will look just a little different than it used to as owners navigate how best to take precautions against the spread of COVID-19. There will be new rules of engagement for all of us, restaurant-goers included.
It’s impossible to predict exactly what the new normal of dining out will be, but restaurant and etiquette experts can at least make some predictions about those new rules of engagement. Keep reading for some of their guesses and suggestions.
1. Don’t Forget Your Mask
Lisa Grotts urges you to show up prepared to restaurants with them.Even as shelter in place restrictions are lifted and restaurants reopen, other protective measures will likely still be recommended, or even required. Face masks, in particular, may be part of the new normal—and etiquette expert
Yes, you will have to remove your mask when it’s actually time to eat, but it’s more respectful to other diners and servers if you keep it on while you’re waiting.
Related Reading: The Right Way to Wash & Wear Face Masks So They Actually Work
2. Keep Your Menu
In an effort to minimize the risk of passing germs between patrons and restaurant employees, you may find your favorite eateries transitioning to single-use menus. The team at California’s Teleferic Barcelona, for example, will encourage diners to review menus online and will ask them to take hard copies home from the restaurant, according to owner Xavi Padrosa.
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3. Prepare to Respect New Boundaries to Your Dining Experience
Rick Camac, dean of restaurant and hospitality management at the Institute of Culinary Education, warns foodies everywhere of the kinds of restrictions that most dining establishments will need to put in place to ensure safety. He expects restaurants to impose time limits on seating times and stricter windows during which diners can eat. Resist the urge to push back on these rules! For the time being, accept them gracefully…and enjoy your meal.
4. Be More Timely Than Usual
If you opt to make reservations to dine out post-quarantine, Padrosa encourages you to show up on time. No, really—like, actually on time. Or early! For the foreseeable future, the kinds of crowds that tend to build up in a restaurant lobby are going to remain a potential danger zone. “We’re sure no one wants to stand in crowded lines in these uncertain times, so being very punctual will help restaurants have an organized welcoming,” Padrosa says.
5. Keep Your Distance When Greeting Friends and Family Members
Pre-pandemic, it was perfectly normal—even expected—for you to get up and give your loved ones a hug when they arrived at a restaurant to share a meal with you. Social distancing has, of course, changed the way we all approach making physical contact. Etiquette expert Jennifer Lynn urges diners not to throw out those rules simply because restaurants are open. Hugs and kisses in public places are bound to make others feel awkward, so stick to a smile and a “hello!” when your friends and family arrive to meet you for dinner.
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6. Say Goodbye to Sharing
Previously, you may have thought that it was especially kind and gracious to invite the loved ones you’re dining with to have a bite of your dish or a sip of your drink. For now, at least, those days are gone! “As of now, it will be frowned upon to ask someone to do this,” Lynn says. “It will only make it awkward, and will put them in a position to feel rude by declining the offer.”
7. Practice Patience!
After months of staying home and social distancing, you might be sick and tired of being patient…but sadly, that’s not going away any time soon. As restaurants and other establishments learn to adapt their practices to maximize safety for their customers, remember to practice basic manners when dealing with servers and restaurant managers, no matter how impatient you’re feeling. “We are making up these rules day by day,” Grotts says. “It will be much easier to accept them without anger.”
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