Here's how to make dining at a restaurant as safe as possible.

After months of dine-in restrictions, restaurants across the country are finally starting to reopen their doors to the general public. But that doesn't mean that they are back to business as usual. Depending on where you live, there are many new rules surrounding post-quarantine dining, including mandatory mask use, social distancing, and, in some cases, a cash-free payment system. Before you go out to eat, you should check to see what your local guidelines are are—and then you should read what the following experts have to say about dining out during the pandemic to ensure your next restaurant trip is safe for both you and the restaurant's staff.

Exterior view of an empty street cafe
Credit: Getty / Westend61

Dining al fresco is relatively safe.

Although indoor dining spaces are reopening across the country, Dr. Mark Mohrmann, MD of Adviise, explains that eating outdoors is by far the better option. "Sit outside in the open air when possible," he says. "Try to dine at off-peak times, when the restaurant is less crowded." Dr. Tamika Sims, PhD, the Director of Food Technology Communications, agrees, but notes that take-out is still safer. "There is no evidence that transmission of COVID-19 occurs through food, food containers, or food packaging. Minimizing your amount of contact points with others by using contactless delivery or pick-up is still ideal," she says.

You absolutely have to wear a mask.

"The Centers for Disease Control states that cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people, in case the wearer is unknowingly infected and does not have symptoms," explains Dr. Sims, which is why it's so important to make sure you're wearing one while interacting with restaurant staff. Mask up whenever social distancing isn't possible (including while waiting to be seated and in the bathroom)—and keep your face covering close by so you can pop it on whenever your waiter approaches your table.

Wipe everything down.

Dr. Mohrmann suggests bringing your own wipes whenever you dine out. "[It's] always good to carry wipes with you, so you can clean your hands or wipe down surfaces to ensure they are safe," he says, noting that those with alcohol are preferable.

If you see anything unsafe, say something.

We've all seen it—not all restaurants, or restaurant-goers, follow the rules. When this happens, Dr. Mohrmann says to speak up. "If local guidelines are being ignored, inform management," he says. The doctor explained that he was recently put into this situation while out with his wife. "We spoke up immediately, and management remedied the situation," he says. This is a new situation for everyone, and sometimes, things slip through the cracks—ultimately, a little patience (and a lot of precaution) can go a long way to ensure a safe and enjoyable dining experience.


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