Going out to dinner is a casual luxury that before the pandemic seemed like a normal activity. But as the coronavirus continues to spread and California has tallied more than a half a million confirmed cases, it’s now a non-essential privilege that’s requiring people who work in restaurants to risk the virus.
The Desert Sun spoke with half a dozen restaurant professionals to get tips on how to be a good guest if you do go out to eat. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re treating yourself at one of the desert’s restaurants:
Wear a mask
Mask wearing is mandated when indoors in California, per an order from Gov. Gavin Newsom in mid-June. And though restaurants currently are only operating outdoor seating, masks are still meant to be worn when entering and exiting the restaurant, said Sharokina Shams of the California Restaurant Association.
In the city of Palm Springs, there’s an extra rule: While patrons may remove their masks once seated, they do have to put them on when an employee is present at their table.
Mindy Reed, owner of Revel Public House in Palm Springs, said many people working in restaurants feel at risk, and mask-wearing goes a long way to helping ease their minds.
“To have us show you care about us by putting your mask up when we come back to the table is something everybody can appreciate, and it’s Palm Springs policy,” she said.
Restaurant professionals are hoping that they won’t have to enforce the mask rules and that people will voluntarily wear them when entering and exiting the restaurant.
Sharokina Shams, vice president of public affairs for the California Restaurant Association, said mask-wearing is the No. 1 rule her organization is encouraging restaurant owners and diners to follow.
She said it’s not unlike wearing a mask when people go to a big box store.
“If we can follow that rule when we need to get our hands on groceries and paper towels and toilet paper, then we can follow that rule while we’re sitting on someone’s patio,” she said.
Adapt to new menus
Many places aren’t going to be giving out reusable menus anymore in order to help limit the number of surfaces that multiple people touch and need to be sanitized. Some establishments are creating paper menus, while others are using large signs. Some are using electronic means, such as QR codes on tables, so patrons can look at the menu via their mobile phones.
Reed said digital menus have been a way to help cut down on cleaning times and have been useful for guests.
“You can keep looking at it, as many times as you need to, and we don’t have to sanitize four menus,” she said.
Be patient, and tip well
Restaurants that are open may have a small crew who are juggling take-out orders and in-person dining. They also have new cleaning protocols to adhere to that may slow down service compared to what you’re used to.
Patrons also might have to wait longer to be seated, as fewer tables may be available to accommodate social distancing.
For these reasons and more, patience, understanding and tips of 20% or more will go a long way toward ensuring servers feel appreciated as they work during stressful times.
“It’s a privilege to go out to eat,” Reed said. “It’s a luxury, we should appreciate it.”
Melissa Daniels covers business in the Coachella Valley. She can be reached at (760)-567-8458, email@example.com, or on Twitter @melissamdaniels.
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