Restaurants are opening again, but in a slightly different style than we were used to. It is probably not in our power at this moment to predict exactly what restaurants will look like after covid, but it is certainly possible to describe a few key changes that we as guests must be prepared for if we go out anywhere, not only in terms of etiquette. The pandemic is clearly changing our hygiene habits, but also the standards by which we assess the quality of a restaurant. In addition to perfect service and great food and drink, our safety will now be one of the key indicators. So, what will be different when you go out to lunch or dinner now?
- Meeting and greeting. A handshake, kisses, a warm hug – it’s all now a bit of a thing of the past in public. Slowly but surely, these expressions of greeting are being replaced all over the world with “just” a greeting accompanied by a friendly nod and smile or a slight bow with one’s hands on the chest, following the example of Indian namasté.
- As a guest, you should discover something like new rules of dining posted at the entrance to the restaurant and definitely also on the premises of the establishment, so that you can study them in advance and decide whether to “go for it or not.” The guidelines should state everything from the required use of facemasks, setting social distance, or even including, for example, whether the waiters will measure your temperature before you enter. The reason is simple: not all countries are implementing the same measures, and let us hope that travel begins again soon.
- Don’t forget your face mask. World experts in etiquette and dining advise you to take it off only when you need to eat or drink. Otherwise, you should leave it on in consideration for other guests and waiters. An impressive feat would be to always have a face mask that matches your clothes when going out. Since it looks like face masks will probably remain an indispensable part of our wardrobe for some time to come, this might pay off.
- Don’t let yourself be taken by surprise if some restaurants set time limits for how long guests are allowed to dine to optimize their profits due to the reduced number of seats due to social distancing. This measure would probably be very unpleasant for many of us, but if it happens, accept it with grace and definitely do not let it spoil your culinary experience.
- Expect the reservation system to increase in popularity. With a precise schedule and exact number of guests, the staff will have an easier time in dealing with all the disinfection requirements and other restrictions. Keep in mind that the waiters must always thoroughly clean each place after the customer before you before seating you as the next guest.
- Try to be on time, even more than before. This way you avoid crowding in the restaurant’s foyer, where guests may create a potential risk zone due to late arrival.
- When entering a restaurant, always disinfect your hands. Face masks may protect others, but they do not compensate for hand washing and social distancing.
- Don’t expect a beautifully set table, that will probably be a thing of the past for a while. For safety reasons, table condiments, water carafes, napkins, etc. are likely to disappear from the tables. The priority is to ensure that guests eat from the cleanest possible dishes and drink from untouched glasses in terms of bacteria and viruses.
- In an effort to minimize the risk of the transmission of pathogens between guests and restaurant staff, the staff will also address the menu. Some restaurants may ask you to study the menu online, none will provide an in-person presentation of the offer, while others will offer you a single-use copy, which you will then be able to take home.
- Always maintain the required distance. Of course, social distance has changed the way we all approach physical contact. So, sharing food or drink is also taboo for now. Even in China, where the preparation of a “hot pot” has a tradition of more than two thousand years and the sharing of food on round tables is a popular custom, great changes have taken place recently. Each guest receives two types of chopsticks: black and white. They are allowed to serve food from common plates with the black ones, while consuming food from his or her plate with the white ones. Hot pot restaurants are experiencing a sharp decline in clients.
- Carry your own pen to sign receipts with. It may seem like a small, insignificant thing, but it’s probably clear to everyone how many people could have touched a restaurant pen before you, and therefore it probably is not the cleanest item.
- Practice your patience! As restaurants and other facilities learn to gradually adapt to new customs on the fly so as to maximize the safety of their customers, always remember good manners, no matter how uncomfortable the whole situation is for you. It will be much easier to accept all the new customs with peace and understanding than in affect.
- Do not expect that when you arrive at the restaurant, the staff will automatically open and close your car door or the restaurant door, and put away or help you put on your coat. More now than ever before, everything is and will be up to you – a matter of your personal choice and your desired level of safety.
In short, times are changing and the trends will follow. The new reality suggests that, at least in the short term, today, more than ever, we are all in same imaginary boat, and we have no choice but to be patient and kind to ourselves and to others.