Seven Tips for Navigating Dining in a COVID-19 World
Updated: Jun 15
Remember the days when dining out meant socializing, networking, or just enjoying a pleasant experience? These days, our restaurant meals have to be so much more than that — they have to be a safe experience for everyone involved, from patrons to waitstaff to the chefs in the kitchen.
Health and safety has to come first if we’re to beat the virus and keep our beloved restaurants open. A COVID-19 case can shut down an establishment and threaten lives and livelihoods. How can you accept this responsibility while still using your dollars to support your favorite restaurant? As with so much in life, it comes down to etiquette: Show respect for others by following the rules.
Tip #1 – Stay home if you are not feeling well
You might be asking, “Shouldn’t this go without saying?” But after months of staying at home, it’s so easy to write off a little nagging cough or a tickle in your throat for the promise of social interaction and a delicious meal. If you have even the slightest suspicion that your health isn’t 100 percent, stay home.
Tip #2 – Bring your phone
For years, I’ve been advising clients to avoid their phones while dining to remain fully present. But the pandemic has upended even my most hard-and-fast rules! Your phone is now a multi-use tool: You can use it for contact-less payment or to order (we’ll get to that in a second). Just be sure to clean it properly when you get home.
Tip #3 – Download a QR code reader
Just a few years ago, it seemed like QR codes were well past their heyday. Now, they provide an easy menu option for restaurants: just scan and the menu will pop up on your phone. If you have an iPad or an iPhone or anything newer than an Android 8, you have a QR code reader built into your camera; if you don’t, you might want to try a downloadable option like QR Code Reader.
Tip #4 – Pack hand sanitizer and wipes
Use hand sanitizer before, during, and after your meal. As an extra precaution, or if the restaurant is still using laminated menus, bring sanitizing wipes to disinfect your table and menu; when you’re done, leave them at the end of the table so the waitstaff can remove them. (Bonus points if you can arrive a few minutes early and do this discreetly.)
Tip #5 – Wear a mask
Even if it’s not mandatory where you live, a mask is a visual signal that you care about the health and well-being of others. It’s good manners to provide a level of safety to the people who are risking their health by serving you. Even basic cloth masks help stop the spread of coronavirus, so be sure to wear yours while ordering. If you are dining in close quarters, take your mask off only while eating.
Tip #6 – Follow the restaurant’s rules
These tips are just the baseline of what all of us should be doing, but many restaurants are implementing additional measures. You might be asked to stay two meters apart from the person closest to you, or you may be advised to wait in the car while your table is being prepared. Doing your part to follow the restaurant’s rules will help keep them in business, so be prepared to follow instructions.
Tip #7 – Give the staff a heads up
Let the restaurant know ahead of time if you have additional guests or are hosting a large group. Re-configuring tables to meet diners’ needs while social distancing creates a new jigsaw puzzle for restaurant staff, so it’s polite to prepare them as they try to accommodate you.
Have you noticed any creative solutions at your favorite restaurant? Are you more likely to patronize restaurants that are being extra cautious about your health? I’d love to hear about your experiences!