There is always a certain amount of risk when dining out. During a global health crisis, those risks are compounded by so many considerations. Restaurant owner Steve Salis shares a few safety tips for eating out right now. 

Across the U.S. and all around the world, communities are emerging from months of lockdown and gradually reopening stores, restaurants, and cultural venues. Specifically in North America, each state has issued regulations with no real consensus about the right and wrong way for eateries to back to some kind of normal business activity. Most restaurants took it upon themselves to design their own protocols for customer and employee safety.

Stay Apart, Together

Social distancing is the most essential component of any COVID-19 prevention plan. Restaurants of every size should maintain at least six feet between tables. Bigger venues, with proper ventilation and strict limitations on how many staff and clients can be accommodated at any time will be safest. Outdoor and patio spaces offered at many restaurants are safer than enclosed spaces and should be utilized as much possible. 

Feast with Few

Another consideration is the size of the dining party. To the extent possible, customers should not be dining in big groups and should eat with those who have been part of their quarantining “bubble,” primarily immediate family members with whom they live. There really isn’t a definitive acceptable safe size of a dining party, but few- if any- non family members is best. 

Keep it Covered

Mask wearing has shown to reduce the spread of the virus and protect both the wearer and those around them. While diners can’t actually eat with masks on, they should cover their mouth and nose when interacting with servers and staff, waiting for their food, using the restrooms, etc. 

Go Where You Know

Assuming diners have taken every precaution, they may still have concerns about the safety of the food they are eager to consume. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the coronavirus is not known to be spread through food. The food safety rules all restaurants must adhere to are designed to maintain public health. Eateries that can be trusted to prepare food according to these protocols should be trusted now as well. 

Limit Points of Contact

COVID maintains its virulency on surfaces including plastic, steel, glass, and some forms of paper. That is why dining experiences that include self-serve and all-you-can-eat buffets should likely be avoided at this time, as serving utensils are touched by many hands. Similarly, restaurants should use disposable paper menus and adopt ways to offer reduced “contact” experiences. 

Check the Stats

Ultimately, there really isn’t any one way to have a completely “safe” meal outside the home. If safety is defined by “zero risk,” any environment that includes other people is likely to pose some risk. Diners should make informed decisions based on updated infection rates in their area. 

Going out for a favorite meal or celebrating with a fun night out is a good way to stimulate the economy and support local businesses. Even if it takes a few extra minutes to be served, or a favorite dish isn’t available, remember these past few months have been hard for everyone. Everyone, diners, servers, and restaurant owners, are all humans trying to navigate this unique pandemic journey. Bon Appetit!