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Only 36% of Americans feel comfortable dining out: Here's how to do it safely

To adjust to Covid-19, restaurants are spacing out tables, offering outdoor dining, and requiring that guests wear masks when they are not eating. Here's how to dine safely.

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To adjust to the realities of the pandemic, many restaurants that are reopening are taking precautions like spacing out tables, offering outdoor dining, and requiring that diners wear masks when they are not eating their food. 

Only 36% of consumers say they feel comfortable going out to eat, according to Morning Consult data. Even so, it's the leisure activity people are most comfortable with right now: To compare, just 31% would feel safe going to the mall right now and just 20% would go to the gym. 

Considering going to a restaurant? Here are a few guidelines experts suggest you follow that can make your experience safer.

Ask questions before you visit

Before heading to a restaurant, call ahead to see how they are operating and what precautions they are taking, says Anne-Marie Gloster, an epidemiology professor at the University of Washington. "Manage your expectations and realize this is going to be different," she says.

Some good questions to ask, according to Gloster, include:

  • Are staff going to wear masks?
  • Are you checking staff temperatures or otherwise screening their health?
  • Do I need to wear a mask?
  • Is there going to be additional sanitizing of shared surfaces like tables and chairs?
  • Am I going to be asked for contact tracing information?
  • Will my temperature be taken at the door?

The answers can help you decide if you feel comfortable dining there or if you might feel safer visiting a different restaurant. 

Sit outside if you can

Gloster and other epidemiologists emphasize that outdoor activities will always be safer than indoor activities because coronavirus droplets disperse more quickly into the air outside. "Outdoor where available is great," she says. 

Even if you don't remember a restaurant having outdoor seating, that may have changed. "I've heard of a lot of places in my own city where they've closed down one lane of our two-lane street so [restaurants] can expand," Gloster says. "Some of our restaurants are using parking lots and it's great." 

If you are dining indoors, make sure the dining room is spacious: Tables shouldn't be cramped together and you should feel like there is adequate air flow. Guests should be seated at least six feet apart, though even farther from other patrons is even better, per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Remember, if the setup seems less than ideal when you arrive or the outdoor tables are all taken, you can always opt for another safe route: takeout. 

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