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5 Steps to be a Considerate Diner at Restaurants

Claudia Saric

August 4, 2020

Written By

Strategic Partnerships & External Engagement, Relish Works


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We’ve all seen it. You’re seated at the table of one of your favorite local restaurants and watch someone stand up to walk to the restroom without a mask on. Or another patron ignores the glass in front of the hostess stand and decides to go around to the uncovered side to chat with the front-of-house staff.

Don't be that diner.

Restaurants across the country have had to up their game in the name of health and safety over the past few months. Policies and procedures have shifted, updated staff training has taken place, and investments into the physical space have happened in order to accommodate various contactless solutions and social distancing protocols. Needless to say, it’s been no small feat for restaurants to reopen their doors once again for the in-house dining experience.

As the foodservice industry continues to work to enhance health and safety protocols, we as consumers must also be doing our part to be considerate and model diners. Below are five steps that you can take in order to be a five-star guest at a restaurant.

1. Read the rules ahead of time.

Be an informed diner and know what you’re walking into before you head out the door. Most restaurants are posting their new safety protocols on their websites, social media handles, or with signs in front of their doors to let patrons know what the new procedures are. Guests should be prepared to have their temperature checked at the door, to wash their hands before entering, and to wear a mask when not seated at their table.

Many restaurants are also running limited menus right now. I recently witnessed a restaurant diner arguing with the waitress because her favorite sandwich wasn’t on the menu. Don’t be that diner. Restaurant managers are trying their best but food and drink options may be limited right now, so give something new on the menu a try.

2. Respect the reservation table time limits.

The margins have always been slim for restaurants, but right now, they’ve gone razor thin. Because restaurants are only seating at limited capacity (25-50%) and need to thoroughly clean tables, chairs and other high-touch surfaces in between each guest, turning tables in a timely fashion has never meant more. Most restaurants are limiting table times to 60-90 minutes, so be informed and responsible before you sit down. Arrive on time for your reservation and respectfully start finishing up 15min before your table time is up.

3. Keep your distance.

Restaurants must have tables spaced six feet apart, but diners should also remember to oblige by these rules when not seated. Distance yourself from other guests when waiting outside for your table and try not to get too close to the host stand or lean in too close to your waiter or waitress when they visit your table.

We keep hearing “6 feet” but what does that actually look like? Here are some examples to help you: a three-seater sofa, two shopping carts, the width of a car, your arm span (plus a little more, if you’re less than 6’ tall).

4. Wear your mask.

I know you've heard this over and over again, but it would be remiss of me not to mention it again. Wearing a mask isn’t just for you, it’s also for those around you. Most states across the country have mandated that masks must be worn when inside of any business, but even if you’re not in a community where masks are state-mandated, be a model diner. If you want to eat out at a restaurant, help out the staff and your fellow patrons by ensuring you wear your mask whenever you’re not seated at your table.

5. Give a little more whenever you can.

Because restaurants aren't currently able to seat at full capacity, tips to your waitstaff mean more than ever right now. If you can afford to give a little extra, just do it. For example, 20% on a $50 bill is $10, but 25-30% is just another $2.50-$5 more and could really make your waitstaffs day. I recently talked to a waitress who said, “Someone leaving me even just a little extra lets me know you care and support us. We’re seeing less people in-house right now, so a little bit more from everyone would go a long way.”

Restaurants bring our communities together and now, more than ever, the foodservice industry is being held to the highest standard with the help of organizations like to provide safe and healthy environments for both staff and guests. Although the industry must continue to be held accountable for providing safe diner spaces, we are all in this together and therefore all play a part in this new normal.

Be that five-star diner.

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