Here’s Why Restaurants Will Never Be the Same
It’s going to be a long time before restaurants are back to normal, even after the vaccine rollout and Covid is in the rearview mirror. There are some things that will probably never go back to the way they were before. Personally, what I will miss most is greeting my regulars with a hug and a slip of the tongue, but maybe that’s just me. We can’t be sure of what will be forever changed, but there are a few things that seem less likely to ever go back to the way of pre-Covid times.
Communal Tables and Family Style dining: After a year of maintaining social distance, can you image how odd it would be to now share a bench with a random stranger? And forget about ordering family-style meals and everyone digging into a bowl of mashed potatoes with their germ-infested spoons. Separate plates for everyone!
Buffets: Forget about it. Those steam tables were already a breeding ground for contamination and there is no sneeze guard that will make anyone ever feel safe enough to help themself to a portion of chicken potpie that ten strangers have just breathed all over.
Outdoor Dining: In the last several months, customers and restaurant owners alike realized that the weather doesn’t have to be perfect to eat outside. The bar for dining al fresco has drastically been lowered. In 2019, the simple act of bumblebee flying too close to a margarita was enough to turn someone off from eating outside, but 2020 showed us that rain, sleet, snow, wind, heat or cold are still perfectly acceptable conditions to eat out in.
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Condiments on the Table: Gone are the days of salt, pepper, ketchup, Tobasco, or anything else sitting on the table for customers to use/contaminate. Restaurant workers have gotten used to wiping down and disinfecting things on an “as needed” basis. Besides, would you want to use a salt shaker not knowing if it’s clean or if it still has the grubby fingerprints of a two-year old all over it?
Paper Menus: You might not like having to download a QR code for your phone just to see what the happy hour specials are, but get used to it. Restaurants have realized that paper menus are passé. Having customers download a menu means restaurants no longer have to spend money on paper and ink. If a price needs to be adjusted or something is added to the menu, it’s a simple edit on the computer. Oh, and tactile menus are filthy. They fall on the floor, everyone touches them, food spills on them, and babies slobber on them. We’re better off without them.
Takeout and To-Go: A lot of customers might never feel comfortable sitting in a restaurant again, so takeout will continue to be an option. Some restaurants didn’t even offer carryout before the pandemic and now it’s the only way those restaurants are surviving. Expect that to continue because they now know it’s another way for them to make some money. (Here is what you should never order for takeout.) And if you want your server to wrap up those last two bites of pasta puttanesca, be prepared to do it yourself. You don’t want their germs and they don’t want yours.
Contactless Pay: Cash was already becoming less and less common at restaurants, mostly because of how time consuming it is to count at the end of the day and how fraught it is for theft or mishandling. In Covid times, some restaurants moved away from using cash because it’s as dirty as a subway platform. Don’t be surprised if paying with your phone or tapping a device with your chip-enabled credit card becomes the norm.
Servers Working When Sick: With a sick day hardly ever an option for restaurant staff, plenty of servers have had to power through a double shift while running a fever and stifling a cough. Maybe, just maybe, restaurant owners will finally see the severity of having their staff work when sick and offer them a day of pay if they’re too ill to be at work. However, this is highly doubtful because some server will ruin it for everyone by partying too hard one night and using the sick day to nurse a raging hangover.