This week in L.A., restaurants have finally re-opened after months of government-ordered closures — with restrictions. While we can’t wait to head to our favorite coffee shops, cafes and evening hot spots again, the rules of dining have changed. According to one of our favorite Venice restauranteurs, Hayley Feldman of Chez Tex, here are a few things you should know before heading out…
make a reservation. Although most restaurants are still accepting walk-ins, most reservation platforms allow you to choose where you sit in the restaurant (for example, if there is outdoor seating). Be aware, some restaurants will only accept reservations as they plan for new limited dining spaces. Formal reservations can also help restaurants to track any potential / future outbreaks.
Wear a mask. You’re probably wondering how you’re supposed to eat and drink while wearing a mask! Safe restaurants are requiring masks upon arrival, departure, and for bathroom breaks, but when seated at your table, it’s not necessary to wear your mask. Always bring a mask if you’re planning to eat out — even if it’s just to grab a coffee or glass of wine. Without one, you risk being turned away.
Keep it intimate. Most restaurants are limiting the number of guests allowed to dine in. Keep your party size small (2-4 people), so as to limit exposure and guarantee you spot at a table without any trouble.
New table manners. You might notice that your share plates and utensils aren’t changed as often (or at all!) or that the table isn’t “crumbed” (aka cleaned while you’re still seated) and this is probably deliberate. Again, the goal is to reduce contact and limit unnecessary trips to and from your table.
New ordering systems. Safe restaurants are using single-use menus. Some are even moving to a digital system where you pre-order your meal online. Others may have you call the server from the table and place your order over the phone – all in an effort to limit face time with your server.
To-go! We’re all desperate for social interaction again, but this will likely come over time in the restaurant world. Patron the small business restaurants you know and love and ask them if they offer to-go or pick-up / delivery options at this time. In all likelihood, all of your favorite spots have adapted an offering in some capacity to compliment the new safe-distance dining operations they will adhere to.
Editor’s note: If you’re able to visit your favorite cafes and restaurants at this time, tip as generously as you’re able. Remember that, as strange as the new experience may be for diners, it may be twice as strange and frustrating for restaurant workers themselves who are coming back after a long lapse in earnings and adjusting to new rules and reduced dining options.