Restaurants say it’s safe. They insist you can come on inside for table service again. And they claim they have all the measures in place that you need to protect you from the coronavirus.
But even with all the social distancing guidelines, capacity rules, ventilation changes, and air filters in place, is it REALLY safe to eat inside a restaurant right now? And how about those “outdoor” dining spots that are inside tents and other sidewalk structures?
Well, that’s another story altogether. It’s one you won’t get from local officials in some places, especially those that have kept the bars and restaurants open this entire pandemic.
And you certainly won’t get the straight scoop from the restaurant industry. So allow me to step in with the unvarnished truth.
Before you make a reservation to return to a favorite old haunt… before you decide to step out for a bite again… there are some things you absolutely need to know.
The scoop on dining OUT (INSIDE restaurants)
I’d love to be given the thumbs up to eat out right now. And I’m sure you feel the same way.
It’s not just about the meal, either. It’s the relaxing evening with family and friends. And the good times around the table. Plus, let’s face it, it’s also about NOT having to cook before OR clean up after.
But that pesky coronavirus doesn’t care what we want or crave. It’s looking for victims. And what IT loves is when people sit indoors in one place for extended periods. Because that allows it to set up shop in new bodies.
An expert from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston recently confirmed to the UPI news agency that some solutions restaurants are using COULD help reduce your risk. Things such as extra spacing between tables and HVAC air filters can make a difference.
But there’s a HUGE grain of salt to swallow too. The same expert also explained that eating indoors in restaurants will ALWAYS involve risks until we get this virus under control.
- People can’t wear masks when they’re eating and drinking, of course. That sends your coronavirus risk climbing.
- Plus, dinner also means chatting with your dining mates. And in restaurants, that means speaking louder to be heard above the din. Once again, that raises your risk. Because the louder folks talk, the more forcefully they expel the virus into the surrounding air.
- And finally, if you meet friends or family who live outside of your home, you’re introducing yet another large layer of risk. Because even if they insist they’re following all the rules themselves, they could still be unknowingly harboring the virus.
In other words, eating indoors can be downright dangerous, no matter how careful you are.
Treat yourself WITHOUT the risk
The simple outdoor dining that many restaurants instituted over the summer is a safer (although NOT risk-free) option. But all bets are off if you get seated in one of those new outdoor structures some have recently built for winter.
Sure, those almost fully enclosed tents and bubbles… many with their own heaters to boot… can SEEM like the perfect solution at first. But the truth is, in most cases, they’re no better than eating indoors. In fact, they might be worse in some ways because they could enclose the virus in an even smaller area.
So as tempting as it might be to forget the social distancing for just one night, the safest bet is to give those places a pass too. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with your own kitchen repertoire. You can still get a fully cooked meal and support your favorite local haunts with delivery or takeout.
Many restaurants now offer curbside pickup, too, so you don’t even have to enter the restaurant to get your meal. They’ll bring it out and drop it right in your window or even the trunk for a true no-contact experience. Plus, no delivery fees.
Curbside services might not be mentioned online, as many smaller businesses don’t update their websites as often as big chains. So just call your favorite spot and ask. My favorite local breakfast joint gets a curbside pickup order from me at least once a week.