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The absolutely essential, non-negotiable rules of dining out right now

It's common sense, people.

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen

If you drift off to sleep at night dreaming about dining out at restaurants again, you're not alone. In fact, when we polled thousands of readers earlier this year, 28 percent said they missed restaurants, bars and cafés more than anything else – including seeing friends and family. (Sorry, Mom and Dad.)

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As you gear up to make a reservation, several big-name food and restaurant groups – including Food and Society at the Aspen Institute, World Central Kitchen and James Beard Foundation – are setting some new, unofficial ground rules for the general public. They're calling it the Diner Code of Conduct.

It sounds pretty serious, but it's really quite simple. There are just four things to keep in mind when you return to your favorite restaurant:

1. Wear a mask

This one's a no-brainer. Restaurant workers really appreciate it when you don your face covering in shared spaces, when you're chatting with your server and when you're not actively eating and drinking. Think of it as the ultimate sign of respect. And no, you're not off the hook if you're vaccinated. Everyone needs to do their part so that we can all feel safe dining out again.

2. Be kind

As restaurants get back into the swing of things after being closed to indoor dining for many months, your kindness and patience go a long way. The truth is, things aren't going to feel "normal" for a long time, but we're getting there together. Service might be slow, your water glass may go empty and the kitchen could be out of your favorite dish. Take a deep breath and go with the flow.

3. Make space

After more than a year of social distancing, we're used to giving people ample space – and that shouldn't change just yet. Give other guests and workers plenty of room when you're moving about the restaurant (especially as you're waiting for your table or waiting in line for the bathroom). If things get too crammed, it's a good idea to step outside.

4. Be responsible

The past year has been rife with tough decisions, but this one's pretty straightforward: If you have Covid-19 or any symptoms of the virus (even a fever), stay home and reschedule your visit. Think you've been exposed to someone with Covid-19 in the past two weeks? The same rules apply. It's better to play it safe, after all.

If you're thinking to yourself that this Diner Code of Conduct feels a bit one-sided, you should have a look at the laundry list of things restaurants and bars are doing to keep you safe as they reopen. We're all in this together.

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