Since March of 2020, a long list of restrictions, mandates and social guidelines resulting from the COVID pandemic have kept us secluded in our homes and away from public places. Stores, schools, movie theaters and many other businesses closed their doors but are now slowly reopening. Staying safe during the pandemic has been a challenge for so many, but the thought of returning back to a new normal has public places doing all that they can to keep everyone safe. Moreover, that includes all of our favorite places to grab a bite to eat.
So how do we, as diners, ensure that we are keeping ourselves safe while patronizing our favorite restaurants?
Let’s start with facts regarding COVID and food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not found any evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted though food. The risk of contracting COVID through food is little to none, especially if food preparers and diners are diligent about washing their hands and using masks and or face shields as well as other safety measures.
Clearly, the obvious safe way to enjoy dining out is through carryout and delivery as interaction with other individuals is minimal. Many restaurants are either delivering food and or are using popular food delivery services such as Uber Eats and DoorDash. Now more than ever, restaurants are offering curbside pickup so that diners can stay in their car keeping contact with others short and sweet.
When the weather cooperates, dining outside is a safer alternative to dining in. While not entirely avoiding others, with proper social distancing and both staff and patrons using masks, dining outside is lower in risk than indoor dining because of the airflow. The World Health Organization suggests that good airflow (this includes clean and well-functioning indoor HVAC systems) can reduce the spread of the COVID virus.
For those that are craving the dine-in restaurant experience, eating in restaurants does not have to be risky and or dangerous as long as you are committed to staying safe and that includes knowing the restaurants safety procedures. Many restaurants provide their safety measures on their website or social media page. If not, it is ok to call ahead and ask. Michael Nolan, President of Sam and Louie’s Italian Restaurants not only welcomes such calls, but also encourages them. “We want our diners to feel safe,” Nolan said and added, “We have enhanced our already high sanitation standards to provide a safe environment for our guests and staff.” Nolan said that his team also conducts daily wellness checks to ensure team members are healthy, (no one works sick), provides digital menus and requires all staff to wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
Other important safety measures to look for when dining in are limited seating capacity and spacing of tables and guests (minimum of 6 feet), frequent cleaning and sanitizing of tables, chairs and high-contact areas, and hand-sanitizing stations. Diners may also want to consider avoiding salad bars, self-serve beverage machines and other self-serving or high-contact options.
Lastly, common sense and consideration should play an important role in your dining decisions. Do you feel safe? Are you feeling well, healthy yourself? Are you going to be in close contact with any high-risk individuals after dining out? Any of these may be good reasons for you to choose other, safer dining options…just for the time being.
As a community, we have been missing so much of what we used to do before COVID, but with caution and common sense, we can be back to that new normal sooner rather than later and enjoy our favorite restaurant inside or out.