Pandemiquette: How To Social Distance While Dining Out | Golden Rules Gal

May, 18, 2020

Covid-19 has changed the landscape of our lives.  We aren’t quite sure what dining will look like except that we will once again be around others.  While it’s impossible to isolate at a restaurant, congregating in groups will be a thing of the past. Social entertainment may make people apprehensive, especially for those who have taken this pandemic seriously.  One thing for sure is :  6 feet apart will mean tables spread out far and wide. Shutting down the country was effortless, but turning the switch back on is proving to be a challenge. Each city is unique.  A lowly populated one will not have the issues as major ones such as New York City.  And if there’s anything we’ve learned from this global health crisis is how easily germs are spread. They’re inescapable, from escalators to elevators; handrails to ATM pin pads; toilets and serving utensils; and restaurant receipts trays to name a few.  

Adapting to new conditions will take time.  Perhaps on all of our minds is will we ever feel safe again dining out? Having others prepare our food has never been fail-safe, so each of us will need to assess our personal risk.  The State of California has unveiled a detailed guide for eating establishments.  Here’s a peak at what our future dining experience will look like:

New Rules of Dining Out:

  1. Meet And Greet.  You had me at hello, but the hello will be friendly nod or a namaste greeting minus a handshake.  This would also include valet where a car (or restaurant) door is opened and closed.
  2. Dining Rules.  Appropriate signage should be prominently displayed outlining proper face covering usage and physical distancing practices.
  3. Mask Prep.  Masks will be part of the new normal. Obviously they can’t be worn while eating but they will be required while waiting to dine.  Masks can protect others but do not replace hand washing or social distancing.
  4. Reservation Wait Time. Reservations will be encouraged to allow time for restaurant staff to disinfect with fewer crowds congregating. With fewer tables wait time will increase. However, customers will be asked to wait outside of the restaurant until seated then text patrons when their table is ready.  (Personally, I will not miss handling those portable buzzers).  No more buzzers as they carry germs.
  5. Menus.  Recycled menus carry germs, so disposable menus and/or digital ones will be preferred.First meal at a restaurant where there was no menu. You had to look on your iPhone to order.
  6. The Place Setting. A pre-set table will also be a thing of the past. This includes table items such as napkin holders and card stands. A thorough cleaning of tables and chairs will need to happen in-between customers.We will be seeing more of this as in prepackaged flatware.
  7. Covid And Self-Serve Condiments Self-service and communal anything will be eliminated. Think condiment and utensil caddies, salt and pepper shakers, napkins, lids, straws, water pitchers, to-go containers, machines including ice, soda, frozen yogurt dispensers, and salad bars. The same goes for table side food preparation such as guacamole, Caesar salad, mints, candies, and toothpicks. 
  8. Open Air Dining.  Seating in open air environments is currently on-trend, so natural ventilation will be a better choice moving forward.  The state recommends upgrading air filters air or making other modifications to increase the quantity of outside ventilation.  Perhaps restaurants will bring back the old school silver protective domes to cover food from the kitchen to table?
  9. Keep Your Distance.  The six feet apart rule is not going to change in the future between workers and customers. Many retail stores already have physical partitions or visual cues in place as to where people should stand.
  10. Intimate Dining. In place of large parties, we might see smaller groups as a way of managing public spaces.  Curbside pick-up will continue with people opting for smaller in-home gatherings. Take out may be encouraged as new food protocols take effect for contactless pick-up and delivery. 

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