Eating out is something that so many of us are excited to get back to now that the country is slowly reopening. The pandemic is far from behind us, but with extensive precautions, depending on where you live, restaurants are slowly reopening for various levels of dining service.
I work in a small restaurant on the coast of California, where COVID-19 regulations have been fairly strict. However, in the last few weeks, we have gotten word that we can reopen for outdoor dining. That is, as long as we implement extensive new precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus. This is super exciting news for people who love eating out, and are sick of cooking at home. While it’s great that eating out is an option again, here are some things to keep in mind before you rush out to your favorite restaurant.
Manage Your Expectations
Eating out is not going to be exactly the same as it was pre-pandemic. Your servers will (hopefully!) be wearing masks. You might have to wait longer for a table because the restaurant is operating with lesser capacity. There may only be outdoor dining available, especially for smaller restaurants, even if indoor dining is technically allowed. Many restaurants are operating with altered business hours and different schedules. Things might be a little chaotic as both staff and customers adapt to the new normal. It’s not going to be the same dining experience you would have had before COVID-19. But if you manage expectations and maintain a positive attitude, it can still be a great time!
The Staff Probably Doesn’t Have The Answers
I know you probably have a lot of questions about what’s going on with your favorite restaurant. That’s totally normal and understandable. Be warned, however, that the staff probably doesn’t have the answers. The owners may not either. In many parts of the country, things are still very much up in the air. We don’t know when we will be able to do indoor dining again. No, we don’t know when you can stop bothering with the mask. We don’t know when all the tables will be available again. We don’t know when we will go back to normal business hours. Most businesses are just trying to survive, sometimes on a day-by-day basis. If the staff seems frustrated by your questions, it’s probably because they’ve had to answer the same questions 50 times that shift, and they don’t know any more than you do.
We Are Not The COVID-19 Police
If someone in the parking lot, outside of the boundaries of the restaurant, is not wearing a mask, there is nothing we can do about that. If someone passed within 6 feet of you on the way out the door, it is not our job to chase that person down and admonish them. Things are scary, and it is frustrating when others choose not to follow the rules. However, keep in mind there is only so much restaurant staff can be expected to handle. We can ensure that all of the restaurant patrons are seated 6 feet apart and masked. The staff can make sure the tables and pens are clean and there is sanitizer everywhere. We are doing everything we possibly can to keep you and your families safe, but there is only so far we can stretch. If something is upsetting you, feel free to bring it up. That being said, try not to get upset if the staff says there is simply nothing they can do.
Tipping Is More Important Now Than Ever Before
You know you’re supposed to be tipping. If you have lived in this country for an extended period of time, this is something you should know about restaurant culture. Servers live on tips. We can argue the faults of that system all day long, but for now, that’s just the fact of the matter. It is so important that if you choose to eat out during this time, you budget a tip into the price of the excursion. It doesn’t matter if it’s just to-go food our just outdoor dining or just drinks. If you are buying anything from a restaurant for any reason, you need to leave a tip. Restaurant workers are spending hours in masks, constantly running around with bleach sanitizing things, and generally working hard to make sure you can enjoy eating out. Reward that with a tip. Times are tough, but if you can, tipping is the single most important thing you can do in a restaurant right now. Besides following the mask rules.
I Promise, The Staff Is All Doing Their Best
Be patient. It may seem like your favorite restaurant is descending into chaos. Things might not run as smoothly as you are normally accustomed to, especially in the first few weeks of reopening. As frustrating as that can be, please try not to take your frustration out on the staff. They are likely just as frustrated (or more so) than you are, and there is almost certainly nothing they can do to fix it immediately. Restaurant workers are doing everything they can. A little understanding and compassion will go a long way in these trying times. We’re all just humans doing the best we can.