Restaurant Experience During Pandemic
Our family has never been big on eating out or ordering food for delivery. Sure, we would get pizza with friends and Chinese takeout from time to time, but not very frequently. Our favorites for going out to eat were always Thai and sushi.
While COVID-19 pandemic closed the doors of many restaurants and cafes, our family went the opposite way and started enjoying restaurant food more than before. This is probably because all other entertainment became scarce these days, meetings with friends diminished, and parties are not as frequent. It feels like we need to compensate for the lack of fun, so restaurant food it is for us.
Our favorite Thai restaurant closed its dining room in March and hasn’t open yet, so the only way to get food from there is by calling in and ordering a pickup. We like using Grubhub for deliveries, but our favorite M Thai Street Food is further from us than Grubhub drivers would like to go, so we have to pick it up ourselves. Thankfully the restaurant is close to our Costco, so we can combine two trips into one. The restaurant is quite strict with their COVID policy – once you come to pick up your order, you have to wait outside, call them, and they will bring your food outside and place it on a special table for you to pick up after the waitress goes back inside. No contact whatsoever!
Most other eateries in Georgia are a lot less strict though. There are no state-wide restrictions and safety protocols are up to individual businesses. This is why I still go to my gym without a mask and can eat out if I so desire. And so we do – this fall we’ve been to a few restaurants and wineries with friends and life there seems almost normal.
I recognize that many other states, especially California and New York, have different opinions, but here, in the Deep South, it’s up to us to decide what’s acceptable, and what’s not. The only places requiring masks are retail stores. Some, like Trader Joe’s, follow very strict social distancing rules, but all others are quite relaxed about that.
When it comes to restaurants, you are sort of expected to enter with a mask, but nobody frowns if you don’t, because as soon as you’re seated, you will not be required to wear it until you are ready to leave. Every place I went to is doing its best to wipe tables and disinfect all the surfaces. Most places now have bar codes attached to the tables for downloading their menu on your phone instead of regular paper one, but you can always request it.
One other change I noticed at some places is flexi glass partitions at bars. Every two seats are separated by them and that really helps keep people from crowding the bars. I enjoyed a lunch date with a friend this way recently and we felt that it gave us more privacy, for gossiping.
Most restaurants have reduced seating capacity. In many places every other table is closed for customers, so restaurants work with about 60% capacity. That is not a problem, because most places receive a lot fewer visitors these days as people order take out more often than before.
I haven’t been to super busy restaurants, clubs, or bars in downtown Atlanta, but I’ve heard from friends that night life is booming and there are no masks in sight. Company Christmas parties have to take place somewhere after all, COVID or not.
If we are not going out and I don’t feel like cooking, we order food to be delivered by Grubhub. We like them because of fast service and fees that are not designed to kill. It is super convenient – we get food in 20-40 minutes and don’t even see the driver as all orders are brought via contactless delivery. When we open the door after a doorbell rings, all we see are the rear lights of a leaving car. And this is totally fine for both sides involved as long as I am able to leave tips on my credit card. I make sure to leave at least 10% because these guys are working hard so that we can enjoy our favorite food without venturing out clad in masks.
All in all I can’t complain. Despite some restrictions, life is going almost as usual in Georgia and so far nobody in my close circle of friends has been sick with corona or anything else. I hope it stays that way and gets better as 2021 is bound to finally bring back some kind of normalcy!