The Things ... Going to A Restaurant


The Things ... Going to A Restaurant 

Being apart at the beginning of the pandemic my husband and I had two different ways of dealing with changes to dining out. We were normally avid diners. At minimum we would go out to a restaurant a few times a month. In my opinion, Germany never experienced a full lockdown. My husband continued to dine out at certain restaurants even with friends. After mid March when my flight back was cancelled, I was never able to go to a restaurant in any capacity until I returned to Germany. Thankfully, I had ventured out of my mothers neighborhood where casual and fine dining isn't a thing and visited several spots before things changed. I had a shared brunch, visited a wine bistro, went to a few buffets and had hot pot. All things that are sort of non existent now in both the U.S. and Germany. I feel like a lot of restaurant concepts may never survive the changes Corona has implemented. In that people need to be prepared for a dining experience that is inherently different than B.C. (before Covid).

So the rules as it stands are that when dining out you must wear a mask walking about the restaurant but when seated you are not required to wear a mask. You also have to inform the restaurant of your personal contact information and that includes everyone in your party. Some restaurants make this process seamless or it can become counter productive. A lot of restaurants force people into a bottle neck filling out whatever forms. There is no social distancing and there isn't much space or ventilation at the hostess station in a tight foyer. The QR code option is better and especially so when it is at the table you are seated at. Then you can relax, take off your mask and fill things out your details from your own device. But even this can get annoying if the restaurant is a dead zone for data. We sat in a restaurant for some time waiting for direction, menus etc but all including menus were provided through the QR code. And both of us struggled with that as our phones were spiraling for WLAN or LTE. Restaurants need to understand that technology should be supported with gratis wi-fi or options for those who aren't tech savvy. And staff need to be up front about the ways in which they are servicing their guests the moment they arrive. In the States, the QR code option was a rarity but sanitized menus as well as attentive and informative service is a thing. Germany has been a mess in that department well before Covid-19. A few times now we were given paper forms at the table, but no pens and concluded our meal without having an opportunity to fill anything out. And at that point we forgot when we arrived and we just wanted to pay and leave. 

I am personally finding it hard to get the relaxation, ambiance and satisfaction of dining out during this time. This is a global experience because there is high anxiety around eating with strangers in a closed space. It is more fulfilling to just stay home and cook satisfying meals. But for those who cannot cook or whose social life revolve around dining out this time is painful. And getting delivery services or prepared foods can be expensive and boring. So you ultimately dine out and you want to support restaurants as they too are struggling to stay afloat. But then wait staff is uncomfortable in their masks where their personality doesn't shine through or they are misheard. A lot of places aren't equipped for proper spacing and good ventilation and without customers they cannot afford to make changes.. I am bringing a hand fan with me everywhere to create my own air con. I have also kept a routine of filling out whatever forms, going to wash my hands, ordering and when we leave washing my hands again. A lot of places have added in sanitizing stations but I really don't think they are as effective as soap and water. But of course to use restrooms you need to put on a mask and hence the whole enjoyment of escaping Rona rules is happening again. And when I walk to whatever restroom I notice all the people not eating or drinking having laughter and loud conversation which is equally disturbing. You sometimes glimpse staff taking shortcuts like wearing their masks under their chin, doing things with ungloved hands etc. I have also witnessed children slob all over community crayons and the waiter just place them back in a bowl to be shared with the next family. I get so squeamish watching things like this and my anxiety disrupts the whole experience over and over again. 

I wonder if concepts and guidelines will get more refined as time goes on. For now they have done the opposite. People dining outside and those serving them don't need masks. So restaurants are creating outdoor spaces that are crowded and not ideal. Groups that linger well after dining aren't asked to protect themselves or leave. And I personally feel like if you are at the table and not eating or drinking you should be in a mask. I also think people in your party can hear you just fine so you do not need to remove your mask unless you are eating or drinking. But as long as governments and their agencies do not inform the public of such things, people invent their own ways of handling the pandemic so they can survive. And if that means restaurants do shady things to maintain capacity and customers. Customers will also do things to continue to dine out as they did B.C. And frankly it is delusional to think that you can continue on as before. There are so many restaurants that have not opened back up simply because they wish to protect their staff and customers. And many have closed their doors for good because their concepts are not Covid-19 regulation friendly. And as much as I would love to support places that I have always enjoyed I am not risking my life for their longevity. I can eat at home!

So restaurants during a pandemic a solid 5/10 ... eat at your own risk! It is literally 50/50 and in my opinion not worth it. Light some candles, buy new plates and create a restaurant at home.