Local restaurants and cafes have taken a significant hit throughout coronavirus. Even before there were mandated shutdowns, many were experiencing slowdowns in their business because people were becoming nervous about the novel coronavirus.
Then, businesses shut down, and even though many industries have reopened in the U.S., restaurants are still either required to be closed or have very limited seating capacities.
Support local restaurants should be a priority for all of us. Local restaurants add not only jobs but also culture and uniqueness to local communities.
If you’d like to support local restaurants, you can always purchase gift cards for later, order take out or eat outdoors if possible.
Beyond those options, is it safe to eat in a restaurant right now? The simple answer is that it depends.
The following are considerations and tips.
What is the Restaurant DoingAs Far As Safety Protocols?
What’s been so great to see from big cities to small towns is the efforts restaurant owners are putting into ensuring customers are safe and also feel confident dining with them.
One of the biggest things to ask yourself before you dine out is what the restaurant is doing, whether your city or state requires that, or what they’re doing on their own without being required.
For example, is the restaurant following capacity limits, offering hand sanitizer on every table, and checking staff temperatures?
Is the restaurant taking guest temperatures?
Are they asking for guest contact information in case anyone does become sick so they can help with contact tracing?
These are things that so many restaurants are doing that can make your experience safer and less nerve-wracking.
How Do You Feel About the Risks Personally?
What we’re finding out with coronavirus is that it may be with us to stay for some time, particularly with the so-called second waves in Europe right now.
That means that more so than ever, we have to figure out how we plan to live with it.
Not everyone will be at the same risk level or have the same risk tolerance, so these are things you have to assess independently.
If you’re older or you’re in a high-risk category, you might decide to avoid in-restaurant dining for the time being and choose to take out instead.
Does the Restaurant Allow for Social Distancing?
Size and how much you can spread out from other people do make a difference in the level of coronavirus risk you might face.
Before you make any dining decisions, think about the size of the restaurant and how much space there will be between tables. Many restaurants are also blocking off every other table too.
If You Dine Out, Know the Biggest Risks
If you’re going to go to a restaurant, knowing the biggest risks in a restaurant can help you avoid them.
For example, consider the high-touch surfaces like areas in the bathroom and door handles. You can clean your hands carefully after coming in contact with these surfaces.
Shared utensils and condiments are another area of potential risk. Many restaurants combat this by moving to single-use items, but wipe them down and sanitize your hands when you touch restaurant utensils.
One of the biggest risks in a restaurant may be the shared air supply, so dining outdoors is encouraged when possible.
It’s best to try to avoid large gatherings in spaces that are enclosed and not well-ventilated.
When you’re interacting with staff, you can reduce your risk if you both wear masks.
Tips for Dining Out Safely
We’ve already touched a bit on these, but if you’ve decided you do want to support local restaurants and dine out, the following tips can help increase the safety level of the experience.
- Wash and sanitize your hands often. Bring your own sanitizer and alcohol wipes, and think about doing it when you touch items like your phone and credit card, in addition to restaurant surfaces.
- Again, if you can sit outside, do that.
- When you’re not eating, keep your mask on.
- Social distance from employees and other diners. Give people the space to walk in front of you and don’t crowd anyone as you wait at the hostess stand or for the bathroom.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth after you touch shared surfaces.
Finally, you can also ask for disposable items including not only silverware but also menus, salt and pepper, and even ketchup and mustard. You could also ask if you can eat your meal takeout style at your table, served in a container.