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Eight tips for dining outside right now at NYC restaurants

Be a gold-star diner for everyone’s sake.

Collier Sutter
Written by
Collier Sutter

So, you want to dine outside.

After months cooped up in your apartment, you’re looking to roam. And your favorite restaurant just announced they’re dusting off the outdoor furniture and spreading out onto the city’s sidewalks and open streets with tables aplenty. As restaurants heed the safeguards of reopening amid the pandemic, there are a few courtesy mannerisms and unspoken social contracts to be considered on your side as well—and we’re about to spell them out for you.

Before you hit up that restaurant’s blooming garden, patio or makeshift parking space, here are a few outdoor dining etiquette tips to keep NYC's dining culture alive, our beloved restaurant workers safe and you on the right side of history.

1. Patience is a virtue, don’t nag the stressed out staff.

Nagging a restaurant host or hostess for a table isn’t going to get you anywhere near one. Remember that there are far less seating accommodations at many restaurants with indoor dining currently off limits. It's not their fault, so don’t be a jerk.

2. As you wait for a table, wear your dang mask.

Don't wear it as a chin strap or with your nose peeking out either. Go all the way. Whether a sweet grandmother passes by you on the sidewalk or anyone at all walks in your path, you’re increasing the risk of getting someone sick without a mask, all while you leisurely wait to brunch.

3. Don’t ever stand in a crowd outside.

Just don't! Don't be among the droves of customers openly drinking to-go drinks in the streets while disregarding social distancing rules.

4. Be extra kind to your waiter.

They’re doing (and walking) a lot to get you what you want. Grace Rivero, of Wayla on the Lower East Side, told us they're currently seating guests in their back patio as well as continuing their curbside dining. That means that staff walks half a city block in order to get from one end of the restaurant to the other.

“One staff member clocked 15K steps the other day! Then there is the delicate matter of traversing steep stairs while carrying hot dishes and perfect cocktails served in pretty stem glasses without disturbing garnishes set in just the right place. It’s a work-out that requires not only endurance and strength, but also finesse,” joked Rivero. But seriously, think twice before you send back food anywhere right now unless it's truly necessary.

5. Make sure you gather all your "asks" at once.

It’s hot under those masks during a New York summer! Don’t make your server run back inside for more napkins, only to have them make another trip back for ketchup, as well.

6. Tip your waiter handsomely.

When deciding how much to tip your waiter, remember they may have dodged multiple strollers on the sidewalk, plus a lane of bike traffic, to bring you that plate of tacos.

7. Be mindful of your close-quarter surroundings.

When getting up to use the bathroom, be mindful that you’ll most likely be walking through a bike lane to get there. Be ready to pull up your mask to keep the restaurant's staff safe while you're waiting inside, too. 

8. Don’t linger after your meal.

In the interest of turning tables, don’t be a loiterer. With fewer tables available, after you’ve finished your meal, pack it up. There are most likely groups of diners salivating on the sidewalk behind you, waiting for an outdoor table of their own.

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