There's finally a light at the end of the tunnel and while this means great things for those who are fully vaccinated, it means some mixed signals for restaurant establishments. It's a confusing world that we're (still) navigating right now, with restrictions varying from state to state and guidelines changing monthly. As more vaccinations get underway and cases continue to decline in certain areas, the CDC will continuously alter guidelines in accordance - but what does this all mean for the food industry?

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Dining out is something that never fully disappeared during the pandemic, although it certainly wasn't deemed the safest risk to take. Most restaurants had precautions in place to prevent the spread of illness and now, those precautions are lessening slightly. In a recent interview with Food & Wine, restaurant employees explained what they're hoping for in the future, and gave some tips on how to eat out - respectfully - in the new 'normal.'

Avoid Staying Longer Than Necessary

It should go without saying but in all likelihood, many of us won't notice when we've overstayed our welcome at a table. There's so much catching up to be done with family and friends that it's easy for one hour, and then two, and three, to sneak up on a table - but this can sorely impact the restaurant and reservations.

While there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel, it doesn't mean restaurants will immediately be at full capacity, nor does it mean they'll be forgoing reservation-only dine-in. Be respectful of how long you linger and remember that there might be another party waiting to be seated at your table.

Patience Is (Still) A Virtue

Things are still challenging for restaurants right now. Diners don't often notice, or know, what goes on in the inner workings, and this includes things such as reservations, large parties, spacing tables out six feet apart, and ensuring that the restaurant is regularly sanitized. Patience is the best unspoken and free gift that diners can give to restaurant staff because they're jumping through hoops to ensure the safety of their guests right now.

Tipping Is More Important Now Than Ever

If you were a solid tipper prior to the pandemic, good - keep it up. Restaurants and the food industry, in general, were hit incredibly hard during the pandemic with many people struggling to maintain a steady paycheck. Even more, most restaurants are currently understaffed after losing staff in the last year and being unable to hire any back. Tips are how many can afford to pay their rent, keep their refrigerators full, cover the costs of having a family, and this is something that's easily forgotten when we're not the ones serving the food.

Vaccinations Are A Safeguard, But Not A Free Pass

Walking into a restaurant and claiming that you don't need to wear a mask because you've been vaccinated is not a great way to start dining out again.

Vaccinations have been shown to help prevent the spread of the virus while also protected the person who's vaccinated, it doesn't mean there's no risk by not wearing a mask. It's not a free pass to forgo a safety measure that could protect others and, if the guidelines in your state still require masks indoors, you can guarantee that this includes restaurants.

Group Sizes Are A Matter Of Courtesy

The excitement of having a fully vaccinated group to go out to dinner with can be overwhelming right now. Even so, we should always be courteous of the restaurant we're going to and the capacity they can handle. Brush up on the current restrictions - if a restaurant is only permitted to operate at 50% capacity, consider limiting the size of your group. Or, consider dining out at a place that has outdoor seating and can handle larger group sizes. And, as always, tip well.

For The Time Being, Be Flexible With Reservation Times And Dates

Consider the fact that restaurants that are still taking reservations have a reservation book that is spread out like a calendar. With limited seating capacity, reservations have grown increasingly challenging on busy days and if a host offers an alternate day, or a later or earlier time, take it.

Of course, they could find a way to accommodate you if at all possible - but it's only putting more unnecessary stress on the staff. If you need a specific time and date available, don't be afraid to call and book early. It'll be appreciated by the restaurant and you won't need to worry about changing your plans.

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