Mike Uncorked: Restaurant Etiquette in the Time of Covid

By Mike Butler

A few years ago I wrote an article about proper wedding etiquette and I listed some dos and don’ts to follow. The responses poured in and I still receive comments on that article.

Well, we live in a very different world right now. Following weeks and then months of isolation, quarantine, being off work, and having a lot of businesses shut down, we have partially re-opened our little business world and it’s fantastic to be back.

I work in the restaurant and cafe industry, and if I had a wish, it would be to make everyone on this planet work in this industry for at least one day to absorb all that happens within. It’s not all fun and rainbows folks. And now that we’re in mid-pandemic mode, restaurants and cafes are doing what they need to do to help staff and customers stay safe, and we all need to do our part. Here is a few things to keep in mind when dining out and enjoying these reopened spaces! Please read carefully!

  1. Courtesy: Do not walk into a coffee shop and up to the counter while talking on your cell phone or texting. If your conversation is that important, keep it outside and out of the line. It’s one of the rudest things you can do to a barista or server.
  2. Pay attention to the environment! All restaurants and cafes have gone through a bit of trauma lately, and have had to make changes in order to reopen. Read the signs about seating arrangements and any other new rules or policies. You are a guest, so ask questions rather than making demands. Check with servers and baristas before just doing things your own way. For cafes: find out where dirty dishes, compost, and recyclables go, what items are available, and where the books and magazines and papers are kept. If you read the newspaper, then put it back together and place it neatly in the proper spot where you found it. Please feel free to get cozy, but remember that you are in a business and not your living room so don’t put your feet up on the tables, make sure you purchase something, and don’t abuse the free internet! Also, limited seating means you should limit your time taking up tables to ensure space is available for other guests. And don’t mess up the bathroom. If you think the barista doesn’t know it’s you after you leave the bathroom in a disastrous state, you’re mistaken! We know everything!
  3. Follow the Arrows! I know we have “reopened” but that does not mean the virus or the previous rules have gone away. Where are the arrows usually placed? On the floor! Please be aware of new routes to enter and exit, be cautious of spacing with other guests, and don’t just barge into an establishment like you own it and the rules don’t apply to you.
  4. Cleanliness: We live in a world now where cleanliness is next to godliness in every sense of the phrase. Have you every cleaned and sanitized so much in your life? Well, working in both a cafe and a restaurant it’s become evident that people don’t quite get how clean we have to be. Please keep in mind that eating establishments have tons of rules regarding sanitizing and cleaning that can be handled much more easily with customer cooperation. For instance, everything you touch in a cafe or restaurant needs to be cleaned afterwards. That includes bathrooms, menus, tables, glassware, debit machines, and beyond.
  5. Masks, Gloves, and Shields: So, how has Nova Scotia done so well with this whole pandemic? Because we listened to the rules and followed them. Congratulations! As stated before, it’s not over yet! So just because we have a little freedom to roam, eat, drink, and shop does not mean we shouldn’t still be following the rules. It is mandatory for staff at a lot of restaurants to wear masks so please respect those protecting themselves and you by doing the same.
  6. Patios and Seating: Yes, it’s the summer and everyone loves being outside. Most restaurants and cafes have had to change up their seating plans a bit, so customers need to be aware and be patient with outside seating and understand that switching seats is not permitted in most places. As well, establishments cannot take larger groups of more than 8-10 so call ahead to check how they’re operating! Be prepared for wait times, weather, and bugs. Don’t leave it up to the restaurant to provide bug spray and sunscreen if you’re dying to sit outside.

Thank you all for supporting your local restaurants, cafes and businesses! Now , more than ever, it’s great to get out and do that. Stay safe everyone, keep aware, and have a wonderful summer!