8 ways to ‘mind your pandemic manners’ when dining at a Utah restaurant

(Rick Bowmer | AP file photo) A social distancing guideline sign at Salt Lake City's Ramen Bar in May.

Restaurants are going to great lengths to make sure customers feel safe when they come to dine — from placing tables 6 feet apart and wiping down chairs to wearing masks and gloves and logging employee temperatures before every shift.

The least their customers can do is follow a few new rules of etiquette for dining during a pandemic. Here are eight ways diners can mind their manners, with some inspiration from the online reservation system OpenTable.

If you’re sick, stay home

This is the No. 1 rule for employees and customers. Showing up to a restaurant with flu-like symptoms puts everyone working or eating in a restaurant — and the other people in their household — in danger.

“We have a dual responsibility in keeping each other safe,” said Michael McHenry, co-owner of Ginger Street in Salt Lake City. “If you don’t feel well, stay home; if you’re healthy, go out.”

Make a reservation

The easiest way to secure a table at your favorite spot is by calling ahead. “We prefer that people make reservations just because we have limited capacity for seating right now,” said Erin Howard, manager at Caffé Molise in Salt Lake City. “We don’t expect anything crazy from anybody, we just hope that we get reservations and people come in.”

Follow the rules

The are usually signs on the doors, tables or walls containing vital information about rules and conditions. At Caffé Molise, there’s a sign on the door asking customers to wait until a host opens the door for them. However, this is frequently ignored by customers who then find themselves in a tight space, violating social distancing rules with people already waiting inside, said manager Sharolyn Weaver. “I wish people would be a little bit more cautious of everybody around them.”

Go the distance

Being in a restaurant and enjoying the company of a small group of family or friends can be reminiscent of pre-pandemic days, where hugs and handshakes didn’t raise health concerns. But restaurants have placed tables 6 feet apart — and are limiting groups to no more than 10 people, preferably from the same household — for a reason. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t invade other people’s space.

Wear the mask

Mask mandates are currently in effect in Salt Lake, Summit and Grand counties, as well as the cities of Provo, Logan and Springdale. That means customers are required to wear a mask prior to being seated and anytime they leave their table. Kristin Gardiner, co-owner of Taqueria 27 restaurants, would like patrons to extend their mask wearing whenever they are interacting with employees, including servers approaching tables.

Use the sanitizer

Most restaurants offer hand sanitizer; some even dedicate whole stations by the entrance. Use it after touching doorknobs or surfaces that might have not been recently sanitized. Bring your own just in case.

Tip more

Simply going to work every day puts restaurant workers at risk of contracting the virus. And health regulations have limited restaurants’ occupancy, lowering the potential number of tables a server can work and the amount of tips they will receive. If you’re going out, reward the staff for their hard work by tipping at least 20% of your bill. OpenTable says most people are already doing that. According to a survey conducted by the online reservation system, more than half of the diners were already willing to tip more than that before COVID-19.

Be patient

Even though restaurants are open, things are different, so be flexible. Some items might have been removed from the regular menu when ingredients are hard to find. “If you see a sign in the supermarket that says they’re out of something,” said Gardiner with Taqueria 27 restaurants, “we are facing the same problem.”

Service might also be slower as staff inside the kitchen — and in the dining room — follow increased safety measures. “Be patient and kind to each other,” said Weaver at Caffé Molise, “and remember that we are all in this together.”