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How not to be a dick when you start going to restaurants again

Industry pros share easy ways diners can show respect and appreciation for restaurant workers.

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Written by
Morgan Olsen
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As cities around the world cautiously reopen, you're probably itching to dine out at your favorite restaurant again. The feeling is mutual – after months of lockdown, restaurants are giddy to welcome in guests and get back to doing what they love most. While the menu at your go-to spot probably looks the same, a lot has changed behind the scenes to keep diners safe as the world continues to grapple with COVID-19. Capacities are limited, tables are spaced out, every surface is sanitized (and re-sanitized), air-filtration systems are doing their thing and servers are getting back up to speed after being out of work for almost a year.

There's a lot that guests can do to help restaurants ease back into service. We chatted with some of the world's top dining pros to help us navigate this new normal. They shared easy tips for showing respect and appreciation for restaurant workers right now. For starters, showing up on time for your reservation goes a long way – as does keeping your mask on when you're not eating or drinking. Take a look at these super simple tips and remember that a little kindness goes a long way right now.

Craving more insider insight from the world's best chefs? You're in the right place. Talk to the Chef! is a weekly food series that will tap into the minds of culinary leaders around the globe. The conversation changes just as often, and we'll chat with chefs about everything from podcasts and kitchen equipment to travel and trends.

How to be a gracious guest as indoor dining returns

Keep restaurant workers safe
Photograph: Sim Photography

Keep restaurant workers safe

“Just follow the rules. It’s simple really. Show some respect to the people cooking and serving your food by doing what you need to do to keep all of us safe. Everyone is desperate for restaurants to reopen – especially the restaurants themselves, with many struggling to stay afloat. Let’s not be silly and mess it all up and spoil the fun. And a big tip would definitely go down well I’m sure.”James Cochran, chef-owner of 12:51 by Chef James Cochran in London

Show up on time
Photograph: Patricia Niven

Show up on time

“Just being nice overall and understanding. We are opening after many months of being closed, so there are bound to be some changes and some hiccups, too. But most importantly, show up on time and cancel your reservation if you can’t make it. With fewer tables we really can’t afford to keep a table empty.”—Marwa Alkhalaf, chef-director of Nutshell in London

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And actually, just show up
Photograph: Sambhav Mehra

And actually, just show up

“I think the most important [way] guests could show respect to restaurant workers is simply by showing up if they have made a booking. When dine-in [service] opened, many guests booked tables and just decided not to show up. The percentage was way higher than usual, and that led to a further loss of business, especially considering the fewer table restrictions.”—Prashant Chipkar, executive chef and culinary director at Masti and chef at Time Out Market in Dubai

Tip generously
Photograph: Courtesy Restaurant Kazbek

Tip generously

“In my opinion, the best way to support employees of newly opened restaurants is, of course, a good tip. It was not easy for everyone to get through these times and such gratitude is the best motivation.”—Mamia Jojua, chef of Kazbek in Moscow

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Wear your mask
Photograph: Kevin George

Wear your mask

“I think that as a customer, the covering of your face with a mask is so important for the protection and comfort of our team. It actually creates an awkward situation for me in the restaurant as I want to ask the guests to wear their masks when they are away from the table but would never want to come across as being rude and upset anyone so this is a challenge for us.”—Nick Alvis, chef and co-founder of Nick & Scott restaurant group and folly by Nick & Scott at Time Out Market in Dubai

Give it up for the staff
Photograph: Courtesy Little Bao Ltd

Give it up for the staff

“First of all, applaud the staff that help us all hold it together. … We all took turns dishwashing, we did delivery, we ran a whole dining floor alone. But we held it together [and] we survived, so please go out and celebrate them. Tell them how much you enjoyed the experience, appreciate their good service and tip them generously. No one turns down a good tip and a good thank you for the appreciation of the immense amount of hard work this industry does everyday.”—May Chow, chef-founder of Little Bao and Happy Paradise in Hong Kong

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Stay home if you’re feeling unwell
Dishtag Limited

Stay home if you’re feeling unwell

“Be conscious of your health and be responsible. Restaurants can control 70 percent of the risks by taking several precautions, but it only takes one infected guest to shut down the whole operation, so if you have travelled or been in contact with a positive case, please reschedule your booking to 14 days later.”—Agustin Ferrando Balbi, chef-founder of Andō in Hong Kong

Follow the rules
Photograph: Denny Culbert

Follow the rules

“Being courteous of house rules goes a long way. Please wear your mask when [getting] up from your table and while interacting with the staff. Also realizing that we're trying to do this as safely as we possibly can for ourselves and for you so that is one more thing to ratchet up our stress.”—Nina Compton, chef-owner of Compère Lapin and Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans

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Enjoy yourself
Photograph: Parker Blain

Enjoy yourself

"I'd say just enjoy yourself when you're out– being able to get back into our restaurants and cafes is a privilege at the moment, so really enjoy it, have fun, remember why we loved dining out in the first place."—Nornie Bero, owner of Mabu Mabu in Melbourne

Be patient
Photograph: Brandon Beerwort

Be patient

“As cities and restaurants begin to reopen, diners can show respect by following the house rules of each establishment and have a little patience and empathy. The industry just went through a traumatic year and nothing is the same behind the smiles of hospitality professionals. While they are trying to offer a normal experience as best as they can, there might be hiccups along the way, like delays or reduced hours, but things will eventually work themselves out, which is why a little patience and empathy will go a long way.”—Chanthy Yen, founder of Touk and chef of Parliament Pub & Parlour in Montreal

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Exercise empathy
Photograph: Bob Lightowler courtesy of Fine Dining Lovers

Exercise empathy

“Show up when you book a table or call if you won’t make it. Wear your mask at every moment you are not eating, be polite and – if you can – tip, tip, tip. Wait until the table is ready to sit down. Respect the house rules and exercise your empathy.”—Narda Lepes, chef-owner of Narda Comedor in Buenos Aires

Avoid the urge to leave a negative review
Photograph: Tegan Smith Photography

Avoid the urge to leave a negative review

“[Negative reviews] can do so much damage, and with the algorithm that most review sites use, a single one-star review can obliterate 10 five-star reviews, penalising the restaurant with a mediocre overall rating with no context as to whether the diner's feedback is fair or warranted. Feedback is super important, and restaurateurs will generally welcome it. But it is only courtesy – especially in these tough times – to deliver it when dining, so at least the restaurant has the opportunity to rectify. And if you are not into confrontation, you can also just pop us an email. Most of the time you will find that we bend over backwards to fix things.”—Matt Manning, chef-owner of Grub & Vine in Cape Town

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Say thank you

“Besides tipping well? Just be gracious. The past 12 months have been especially hard on servers, who depend on steady business, so say ‘thank you’ and mean it. Your server is taking care of you as well as they know how. Yes, it’s their job, but they genuinely want you to have a good time. It’s not all fake smiles and forced banter, so showing that appreciation is always recognized and well-received.”—Luciana Giangrandi and Alex Meyer, chefs and co-owners of Boia De in Miami

Keep up the support
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

Keep up the support

“As [cities] begins to re-open, we are very grateful to see all new and returning guests. I hope they keep in mind how much our industry has suffered during the pandemic and how hard it has been for restaurant workers. It is certainly appreciated if diners have a good meal with us to continue supporting us by ordering takeout, recommending the restaurant to a friend, writing a nice review or simply saying some kind words goes a long way to help make our day.”Emily Yuen, executive chef of Bessou and Bessou at Time Out Market in New York City

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