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Group of people cheersing at Tetto di Carolina
Photograph: Melanie Desa

7 ways to be a better customer now that restaurants have reopened

Some top tips to keep in mind next time you head out for a meal

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Since the nationwide closure of restaurants, cafés, bars and pubs took effect in mid-March, hospitality businesses have contorted themselves into all manner of unwieldy forms in order to stay open and solvent. They’ve become markets, wholesalers and takeaway joints, innovating and pivoting to keep us fed and watered and in the process, they've also kept us connected to Melbourne's incredible food culture.

Since June 1, venues have been able to reopen for seated dining, but many of the eateries that make our city such a vibrant place to live are still really doing it tough. So, isn’t it about time we gave our hardworking hospos a little something back? 

As venues begin reopening with strict limitations in place, here’s how you can be a better customer during these tough times for the hospitality sector.

RECOMMENDED: 19 things you need to know about dining out in Victoria from now on

Turn up for your booking

Restaurants are operating at drastically reduced capacities at the moment, and many are only taking pre-booked guests to ensure they can make operating under such strict conditions feasible. If you’re lucky enough to secure a booking, know that your custom represents a significant chunk of that restaurant's daily takings, so you better turn up.

No, really. Turn up for your goddamn booking

Sorry to labour the point, but being a no-show for a restaurant reservation right now really is the biggest cardinal sin. Times are tough enough without punters ghosting on struggling businesses.

Be patient with staff

While it’s great that eateries are able to open their doors to seated diners again, this is far from business as usual. Because the number of paying customers has been significantly slashed, many restaurants are operating with a skeleton staff, which may mean you’ll be waiting a little longer for your order. Be considerate and cut your waitstaff some slack – they’re doing their best.

If you can, leave a tip

Hospo workers are on such financially thin ice right now that any additional income makes a major difference. And more than that, it’s been a pretty bleak few months for many people in Australia’s hospitality sector, so the simple validation and acknowledgment that a tip represents can be profoundly reassuring.

Be flexible when booking your reservation

With so few seats at a restaurant's disposal, the most popular lunch and dinner reservation times are going to be hard to secure. If you’re prepared to sit a little later or earlier than you might otherwise like, you’ll not only stand more of a chance of securing a table, but you’ll be helping a restaurant maximise its bookings for the day too.

Don’t linger

In the Beforetime, it might have seemed quite reasonable to rock up to a restaurant with the expectation of whiling away an evening with a long and leisurely meal. However, right now, restaurants need to be able to serve their customers efficiently and at speed. That's not to say venues don't want you to have a good time – that's literally the reason they do what they do – but you can help them out by being prepared to vacate your table once you’re done eating.

Dine at many different venues

Now that we’re allowed to eat out again, do it often and spread the love. Try out restaurants, cafes and pubs you’ve never sampled before and support as many local businesses as you can. Make it a personal responsibility to protect the vibrancy of our city’s culinary offering during these most challenging times.

Wondering where to eat? Check out this list of restaurants currently offering seated dining in your area

Plus, here's what the future of dining might look like according to Melbourne restaurateurs.

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