Here’s What To Expect the Next Time You Go Out To Eat
As restaurants slowly begin to reopen across the country after having been been closed for weeks due to the pandemic, diners and restaurant workers alike are eager to get back into the swing of things. Customers are ready to be served and servers are ready to make some tips, but when everyone steps back into the world of restaurants, things will not be the same.
While there is a designer in France who has created a plexiglass “cone of silence” that suspends from the ceiling ensconcing each restaurant guest inside a womb of their own carbon dioxide while protecting them from airborne droplets of contagion, it’s not likely that many of us will see that level of change. However, there will still be plenty of differences and people need to be prepared.
* Everyone will be wearing masks. Well, customers probably won’t have to wear them because it’s impossible to eat with a mask on and apparently it’s more important that the restaurant staff wear them to protect customers than it is for the customers to do anything to protect the restaurant staff. Don’t worry though, your server will still be fake smiling even though you won’t be able to see it.
* Menus that are used over and over again from table to table are basically laminated petri dishes, so don’t expect to see those anymore. Instead, restaurants will probably be using one-time use paper menus or taking advantage of chalkboards. A more advanced option might be a QR code that diners can scan with their cell phones for digital menus that will pop up in the palm of their hands, but those restaurants better have some of those paper menus handy for the technologically challenged.
* Planning a dinner for a huge group of people to celebrate a special occasion? Forget about it. Most restaurants are limiting how many people can be in a dining party so if you’re in dire need of being surrounded by twenty of your closest friends while you eat birthday cake, a back yard bar-b-q might be in your future. It’s also doubtful that servers are going to cluster around your table to warble an off-key version of “Happy Birthday” because if there’s one thing you don’t want for your birthday, it’s a group of people singing at the top of their lungs two feet from your face.
* There probably won’t be salt and pepper shakers on the tables anymore or anything else for that matter. Sugar caddies, ketchup bottles, and little bowls of non-dairy creamer are all ripe for germs, so those will be more than likely given to you upon request. And speaking of requesting things, it might be wise to consolidate your needs in order to keep your server from getting too close to your table too many times.
* If you’re one of those people who likes to finish your meal and then linger at your table while nursing a cup of coffee and chatting with your dining mate, prepare to be asked to leave a little sooner. With many restaurants opening at a much lower capacity, tables are even more of a premium than they used to be, so don’t be surprised to see time limits on how long you can stay after you pay your check.
* Be on the look out for a COVID-19 surcharge on your bill. Food costs are going up and restaurants are struggling to survive. In addition to that, they may be purchasing a lot more hand sanitizer or paying for those disposable menus mentioned above and some of that cost may be passed on to consumers. If there’s no surcharge, it’s quite possible the overall menu prices went up, so expect to be paying a little bit more when you go out to eat.
* Remember when you used to wait at the bar for an available table while snacking on a bowl of community peanuts, popcorn, or bleu cheese-stuffed olives? Gross. That’ll never, ever happen again.
When you feel comfortable venturing out to a restaurant once more, just be aware that things have changed and no matter how difficult it is for you, it’s probably even more challenging for the restaurant staff. Have some patience and understanding and if you feel so inclined, show your appreciation with a slightly higher than average tip. Or at least pull up your mask when your server comes to your table to check on you.