The Mandatory Dining Out Guide to Surviving Supper in Public
There was a time, before all of this, when dining out was a simple pleasure. It was a treat. It was a little thing that we always looked forward to but maybe, just maybe, took for granted a little bit. We’re not taking it for granted anymore, though. We miss it more than anything. We miss it more than going out for drinks with our friends, more than going to the movies, even more than baseball. Definitely more than baseball. The simple act of gathering friends, family or loved ones and going out on the town for a meal that we didn’t have to cook ourselves (or order from a drive-thru) is one of those simple pleasures that we have, for the most part, been deprived of in the time of corona.
Well, despite most scientists’ and doctors’ recommendations, restaurants are starting to open back up. And people are returning en masse — part out of hunger and part out of the desire to return to some semblance of normalcy. We’re not there, yet. We probably will never be back to “normal.” But people can finally go back to Olive Garden and, for now, that is good enough. Still, though. If you are going to dine out, we recommend not being an asshole about it. Here is a guide to surviving supper in public (without being a dick).
Cover Photo: Avdee007 (Getty Images)
Research Restaurants That Maintain Social Distance
Some restaurants (or, more accurately, restauranteurs) are good about social distancing; some are not. Find the ones that are. Opt for places with patios, or ones that are large enough to give yourself enough room to comfortably enjoy dinner without spreading the plague to other patrons.
Just Wear a Fucking Mask
We know -- wearing a mask is uncomfortable and you look like a dork. Some people even argue (incorrectly) that masks are ineffective. But here’s the thing -- even if they are (they aren’t), if there’s even a 1 percent chance that they can keep others safe (they do), we should be wearing one. We’ll even make you a deal; if you wear a mask to the restaurant, you can take it off while you’re actually eating. In fact, you can take it off as soon as you get to your (socially-distanced) table.
Bring Hand Sanitizer and/or Wipes
In a perfect world, every plate, fork and glass you touch at a restaurant would have been thoroughly sanitized before ever reaching your table. Unfortunately, those who have worked in the restaurant business know that it’s anything but a perfect world. So to be on the safe side, bring some extra cleaning supplies with you. Definitely use it after you use the condiments. Nobody ever washes those.
Make a Big Deal Out of It
We don’t recommend making this a daily, or even a weekly thing. The more we stay away from people, the quicker this thing can finally end. But we also understand the innate desire to eat fried foods prepared by people making minimum wage, so we offer this: Make this a night to remember. Pretend you’re asking your person (or people) to prom. Make a big production out of asking him/her/them out to dinner. Dress up! Put on your Sunday best (preferably with matching masks!) and pretend it’s New York City in the ‘50s.
More and more restaurants these days offer patio service. Use it! This lessens your chance for possible exposure and, being that it’s summer, it offers you a beautiful view of the summer sky. Eating outside can keep you healthy and it can offer a romantic setting that you may not have otherwise utilized.
Avoid Peak Times
This should seem like a no-brainer, but if this pandemic has proven anything, it’s that we’re all real dumb. Because of that, we feel like it’s our obligation to suggest avoiding restaurants during their peak hours. Now, we’re not saying you need to get the Early Bird Special at 3 p.m., but maybe don’t go right at 7 p.m. either. Late dinners are pretty chic, anyway. Shoot for 10 p.m. Maybe you’ll even luck out and get a late-night happy hour menu.
We know, we know, Mr. Moneybags. You like to feel like a big-time player by throwing out $100 bills when your server brings out the check. But that dolla bill you so arrogantly throw onto the table has probably passed through thousands of hands before it reached yours. We suggest going cashless if you can. It’s more hygienic and you look like less of a douchebag.
Most Importantly, Be Kind
This is the big one. If you take anything from this guide, let it be this: don’t be an asshole. Seriously. This is a new and scary world for all of us. And we can guarantee that the people serving you food are definitely not making enough to deal with the Karens of the world. We know that you’ve been going stir crazy and just want a little bit of “normal” for an evening. We support and encourage that. But please, don’t do it at the expense of those who are serving you. Be patient if wait times are a little long or if your server forgets that side of ranch or if everything doesn’t go completely as planned. Nothing is going according to plan right now, and it’s up to us to take care of one another. So be kind.
And over tip.