Restaurants are reopening in Texas but with major changes that offer a preview of what it's going to be like to dine out after the coronavirus crisis.
At Coltivare, an Italian restaurant in Houston, all the tables were moved outdoors and covered with easily replaceable brown butcher paper instead of pristine white table cloths. Gone were the standard salt and pepper shakers and cloth napkins. In their place were bottles of hand sanitizer and utensils in vacuum-sealed packaging.
According to NBC News, Coltivare's owner and chef Ryan Pena researched safety precautions that Hong Kong restaurants used following the SARS outbreak in 2003. The directives suggested by the International Journal of Hospitality Management included:
All staff, regardless of their position, must wear protective surgical masks.
A "hygiene" ambassador should greet customers and offer antibacterial wipes. A disco in Hong Kong hired "Nurse Betty," an attractive waitress who checked the temperatures of customers at the door.
Restaurants must disinfect the premises several times daily and utensils should be sterilized to eradicate the virus.
At Coltivare, Pena had the waitstaff wear cloth masks and gloves to greet diners while taking the entire order at once to reduce social interaction. When diners finished their meal, they placed their dirty dishes onto a tableside cart so that servers didn't have to lean over a table to collect them. Those wishing to use the restroom were accompanied by a staff member to double check that the facilities were empty and sanitized.
The standard rules of safety still apply. Always maintain social distancing and try to frequent restaurants during non-peak hours, says Eater. Frequent hand washing and using touchless forms of payment are also recommended.
While these measures help build customer confidence in the safety of eating out, some experts warn that it's still risky, especially in areas where the number of new cases continues to climb.
"Eating out and interacting with society is not a risk-free scenario right now," Elizabeth Carlton, a professor at the Colorado School of Public Health, told NBC. "If you are in the older population or otherwise high-risk, you should proceed with caution."
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