The new rules on restaurant etiquette

With limited customer numbers and social distancing measures, there are new rules in play when it comes to eating out.


Remember the days when you could decide on the spur of the moment to grab a meal? You could simply show up; sit on any spare table; and even shake hands with the chef to compliment her on a great meal.

And whilst eating out now comes with a new set of rules – like providing contact details or enforced social distancing – it also comes with a new set of restaurant etiquette guidelines.


1. Plan ahead

Many restaurants are turning to mandatory reservations as they reopen – but even if they haven’t, provide your favourite restaurant some certainty by calling ahead. This allows them to better plan their staff numbers and food orders.

From a practical point of view, it also helps prevents a large queue forming in the restaurant lobby – and congregating in large numbers is definitely off the menu for now.


2. No-shows are off

A group of diners made headlines in Sydney, Australia recently when they were a no-show for dinner. The diners made a reservation for six people at Italian restaurant Beppi’s but failed to show – or even call to cancel.

With restaurant numbers limited to ten customers at the time, the no-show resulted in a 60% revenue loss for the evening – proving simply disastrous for the restaurant.

Another no-no? Showing up with fewer numbers that planned. In ‘normal’ times, arriving with five friends rather than the original six intended would pass without a cursory glance; now, that missing one friend might be the difference between the venue keeping the lights on for another day (or not).

To avoid this, many restaurants are requesting a credit card to confirm reservations, with some implementing $100+ cancellation fees for no-shows or requiring cancellations in advance of 72 hours.



3. Order a meal – not a coffee

The complaint we’ve heard most often (after no-shows)? Customers ordering a single cup of coffee to ‘drink-in’ and lingering, keeping the table from being used by other customers wanting to order big.

Be considerate to your favourite venue by taking your coffee to-go – or at least order a muffin and drink quickly.


4. Leave gift cards for another day

This is the first time in months some restaurants have the opportunity to bring in revenue – let alone profit. Forego the coupons and gift vouchers and pay your check by cash or card. If vouchers are nearing their expiration date, ask the manager if they could extend the date for a few more months. They’ll be grateful for the additional short-term cash flow into their business.


5. Be nice to the staff – and always tip

We get it: going out to a restaurant isn’t as enjoyable as it was previously with all the new rules and regulations.

But think about the staff. That waiter who just served you? He hasn’t received any income in four months, and spends his days homeschooling his three children whilst worrying about how he’ll keep a roof over their head.

It should go without saying, but remember to be courteous and practice basic manners when interacting with servers and other restaurant staff, no matter how frustrated you may feel.

And even if your meal was cold and you were served the wrong dessert: cut the staff some slack and tip big. It will go some (small) way towards making up the income they’ve lost over the last few months.


Work in the restaurant industry? Check out our restaurant reopening readiness guide for tips on operating in a post COVID-19 world.

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