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Eating Out During Coronavirus: How to Better Protect Yourself

Here's how diners should consider protecting themselves when returning to restaurants
TOLGA AKMEN/Contributor/AFP via Getty Images

A lot has changed in restaurants amid the coronavirus pandemic. Business owners have enforced social distancing in creative ways, and outdoor dining is an increasinly popular option, even in the dog days of summer. But as state by state restrictions relax in certain parts of the country, more and more restaurants have started to reopen. And while diners are likely eager for things to get back to normal, health experts from Novant Health recommend a few ways to stay safe when returning to your favorite burger joint or cocktail bar

Open Restaurants: A Look Inside and Outside Reopened Eateries Across the US

Use contactless payment

Even if you're just stopping into a restaurant for takeout — the lowest risk ways to dine out — health experts recommend utilizing contactless payment when possible. But, if that's not an option, see if it's possible to use a tray or counter to exchange payment rather than by hand. One health professional even recommends using a Q-tip to key in your PIN numbers. 

Ask questions

While it's important to check what a restaurant's COVID-19 procedures are prior to dining there, health professionals also encourage patrons to ask questions. If you're not sure what a restaurant's policies are, ask them what precautions they've taken and what cleaning and disinfection policies they've implemented

Look for warning signs

Another great way to stay safer when dining out is by looking for warning signs or indicators that proper coronavirus precautions aren't in place. Employees failing to wear face masks and not washing their hands frequently are two warning signs. Also look out for social distancing at tables, plexiglass barriers and paper menus or QR code menus. If the bathrooms or your table look dirty, those might also be signs that the restaurant isn't following recommended safety procedures. 

Change your clothes when you get home

If you want to stay on the extra safe side, or if you feel like you've been exposed to someone with the coronavirus, one health professional even recommends changing your clothes after dining out. For a complete guide on how to properly wash your clothes after potential exposure, click here

Wear a face mask


Wearing a face mask is another way to protect yourself when dining out. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, requiring the use of a face covering among staff and guests is a way to protect people in case the wearer is an asymptomatic carrier of the virus. But the recommended precautions and procedures don't end there and many diners have expressed their biggest fears and pain points as restaurants across the country reopen.