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Despite rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, many states are reopening their restaurants and businesses. If you and/or your family decide to go to a restaurant in the coming weeks, safety is crucial. While you should always be respectful and kind to your servers, restaurant etiquette is more important now more than ever. While takeout and curbside are still the safest options, eating at a restaurant can benefit servers particularly.

If you’re preparing to visit a restaurant soon, follow these tips to mindfully and respectfully eat at a restaurant during the coronavirus crisis.

Call ahead

With restaurants not currently operating at full capacity, this step is crucial. You’ll want to call ahead to, firstly, ensure available seating for your party, but also to allow the restaurant to prepare for your party. This helps avoid a line of waiting people outside, allowing all people involved to better practice social distancing measures. Whether you call days or minutes in advance, this small step can make a huge difference.

Woman looking at her phone while sitting on the stairs at home.
Photo by Dean Drobot

Read the restaurant’s policies

Prior to arriving, check the restaurant’s social media and/or website to review their COVID-19 guidelines. Many restaurants might have restrictions on the number of guests in a party, time limits, etc. You will likely be encouraged to wear a mask until you are seated, too, so be sure to bring your mask and wear it as you enter the building. Wearing a mask protects those around you, so you and your party might even consider wearing them until your food has arrived.

Consider sitting outside

A simple etiquette tip: fresh air is a much safer environment to enjoy your food, so weather permitting, opt to dine outside.

Be timely

As mentioned, calling ahead and making reservations are highly encouraged. When you do make a reservation, be sure to arrive in an extremely timely manner. Restaurants are operating at specific capacities and following certain cleaning procedures, so respecting the timing is everything. Being punctual avoids any issues with excessive waiting on either side.

Social Distancing sign posted on door, maintain at least 6 feet from all customers.
Photo by ARGB-photos

Remember to social distance

As tempting as it can be to hug your friends and family upon arrival, remember that physical contact right now is discouraged, especially in a public space. Instead, opt for non-contact ways to greet your party, at least in a public space. This helps your servers and other guests feel safer, being mindful of all those around you. In addition to not touching, now is not the best time to share food or drinks, too. This transfer of germs, while seemingly harmless, can raise several red flags. To keep yourself and others safe too, remember to social distance and keep your items to yourself while at a restaurant.

Order mindfully

Even before COVID-19, it’s best to order as much as you can at once, rather than running your server back and forth multiple times. When you go to a restaurant, look at the menu before going so you have a general idea of what you want to order. This way, you can order your drinks and food at once, preventing the need for sudden requests. As you might not have on your mask at the table, this prevents too much exposure for all parties involved.

Ten dollar tip under a plate on a table.
Photo by auns85

Most importantly: tip

Tipping is always proper etiquette at a restaurant, but especially during these hard times, tipping well is crucial. Your server is showing up every day, putting themselves at risk to serve you your food and drinks. Additionally, with restaurants operating at smaller capacities, servers are receiving less tips than normal. With this in mind, tipping well can truly make a difference in someone’s current financial state.

If you choose to eat at a restaurant this summer, follow these tips and any other recommended precautions to make eating out a respectful, mindful experience for all involved.


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