Face mask? Check. Face shield? Check. Hand sanitizer? Check! These are the items we should all be carrying with us when we leave the house. It's been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit us, and we're cautiously trying to navigate our new normal—especially since the number of positive cases are on the rise once again. Some opt to stay at home, only stepping into the outside world for necessities, but there are also people who are trying to figure out how to safely move forward. Take dining in restaurants, for example. Have you been thinking about meeting up with your BFF at your favorite cafe? Or having lunch with your cousin at a nearby restaurant?
Cosmopolitan reached out to Cat Altomonte, Brand Communications Manager of The Standard Group (Yabu, Ippudo Philippines, and Elephant Grounds Manila) and Henna Yu, Digital Marketing Officer for Tasteless Food Group (The Grid, PizzaExpress, Your Local, and Off-Grid) to give you an idea of what it's like to dine in a restaurant these days.
Is it safe to dine in a restaurant? What are the general safety protocols in place?
Henna: "Speaking for our own restaurants, a lot of the safety protocols have to do with physical distancing our diners. Before we reopened for dine-in last 2020, we installed acrylic barriers on our tables, and stickers and signs to enforce distancing at tables. Our restos also enforce contactless dining: We provide customers with QR codes at their table that will direct them to an order form where they can order their food. Payment is contactless, too, as much as possible. We've also stopped offering service water at our restaurants to minimize contact between servers and customers. All our utensils are UV sterilized and everything is sanitized regularly. We also comply with the general safety protocols implemented by LGUs like contact tracing forms, and, depending on location, age limits for diners who are allowed inside."
Cat: "Lots of sanitation, physical distancing, health checks, and strict measures on face masks. We went the extra mile and got extra hardware for air purifiers, UV light disinfection, and hot water dishwashers. Nothing has changed since we opened up months ago and now—it's absolutely necessary to stay vigilant and responsible at all times. It's about taking care of both your customers and workmates in the restaurant."
Is it necessary for people to call the restaurant before they dine in?
The short answer is no, people don't have to call beforehand but they *highly* recommend doing so. "A lot of restaurants have set up more al fresco seating arrangements, and if you want to bag those, I'd recommend calling ahead because they're pretty in-demand. It also helps restaurants traffic diners during peak hours and control safe dining parameters," Cat said.
Are there any rules about sharing food while you're dining in?
Both Cat and Henna explained that their restaurants don't have strict rules about food sharing. Customers are allowed to share food if they want to, but they don't recommend it. Acrylic dividers are in place, so it makes it harder to do this, of course. Henna shared, "I think diners should exercise their own discretion," while Cat said, "just the basics— like servings spoons and extra plates to split among your table—are things to be aware of."
Are there safety tips you'd like to remind customers of or even encourage?
Henna: "As much as possible, if you're finished eating, please wear your mask! I notice a lot of diners leave their mask off after eating, which leaves you exposed. Always bring alcohol with you. Also, if you can, try to go for outdoor seating—but also remember that while outdoor dining is relatively safer than indoor dining, you should still practice physical distancing and wear your mask."
Cat: "I'd love to encourage, as a diner, putting your mask on every time you speak to our store staff, even if it's just for a second (for example, asking for more water or adding an order). It's something that can help everyone stay and feel safer in our spaces."
It's important to note that every restaurant has their own set of rules, and most of them have been pretty good at updating their customers via their respective social media platforms. We encourage you to check those channels before you head out to make sure you're prepared and protected.
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