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7 red flags to be on the lookout for when restaurants reopen

7 red flags to be on the lookout for when restaurants reopen
  • As it becomes possible for Americans across the US to return to restaurants, customers need to be on the look out for red flags.
  • Restaurants that have not made changes such as requiring workers to wear masks, marking some tables off limits, and rolling out new cleaning practices are probably not safe.
  • Other red flags include poor ventilation and not allowing customers to make reservations.

As restaurants reopen dining rooms, many Americans are eager to once again eat out at their favorite spots.

However, customers need to watch out for red flags that signal some restaurants aren't currently safe.

"The one thing we do know is the virus is still out there," Celeste Monforton, a lecturer in public health at Texas State University told Business Insider. "When some governor said, 'May 1, we're opening things up,' it's not like the virus had a calendar and said, 'OK, I'm going underground again.'"

Experts and industry groups have created guidelines to keep restaurants as safe as possible as they reopen dining rooms. Restaurants that are following this guidance will be far safer to visit than those that have not made any adjustments to protect customers and workers against the coronavirus.

Here are some red flags to look out for when determining if it is safe to dine out at your favorite restaurant once again.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Customers can sit at any table they want.

Customers can sit at any table they want.
Tables and chairs taped up to maintain social distancing at a Starbucks coffee shop in Hong Kong, April 2, 2020. Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Social distancing is key to keeping customers and employees safe. And, it's basically impossible to keep customers six feet away from each other if every table is open.

Most restaurants are marking certain tables off-limits. Others are simply removing some of the tables from the restaurant.

If every table is open and the restaurant has as many seats as it did before the pandemic, you should avoid this spot.

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People are closer than six feet to each other at tables, bars, or while entering the restaurant.

People are closer than six feet to each other at tables, bars, or while entering the restaurant.
In "Novy's Brasserie" guests are served at tables in small greenhouses. Bernd Thissen/Getty Images

While blocking off some tables can help promote social distancing, you should be aware of any crowding throughout the restaurant. If people are crowded around a bar to order drinks, avoid that part of the restaurant — or avoid the restaurant entirely.

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The restaurant has poor airflow and relies on air conditioning.

The restaurant has poor airflow and relies on air conditioning.
An employee wearing a face shield chats with a customer at his cafe in Berlin on May 15, 2020. Kyodo News/Getty Images

An airy restaurant, with big open windows and fans, is safer than a spot with poor airflow that relies on air conditioning to keep customers cool in a stuffy room.

In an early research letter published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases in April, researchers examined how the coronavirus spread among nine people eating at a restaurant in China in January. According to researchers, the restaurant's air conditioner blew the viral droplets of one person who was asymptomatic farther than they might have normally gone.

Researchers recommended increasing the distance between tables and improving ventilation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in restaurants. Or, even better, pick a restaurant with outdoor seating.

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Employees aren't following sanitizing guidelines.

Employees aren't following sanitizing guidelines.
A restaurant in Bologna, Italy, reopens on May 18, 2020 after two-plus months in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic. Max Cavallari/Getty Images

The National Restaurant Association has offered extensive guidance on cleaning and sanitizing, as well as general advice on how restaurants can reopen relatively safely.

It is hard to tell at first glance how closely restaurants are following guidelines. If you're concerned, it is worth calling ahead of time and asking what new policies have been rolled out to keep customers and workers safe.

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Workers aren't wearing masks.

Workers aren't wearing masks.
Vanessa Zubia-Meza and her mother Margie Zubia are pictured in the window of their new restaurant called El Paseo on May 18, 2020 in downtown El Paso, Texas PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images

Ideally, everyone would wear a mask when people are inside or within six feet of each other. However, that's difficult to do while you're eating.

Restaurants should require employees to wear masks. In kitchens, it can be hard to strictly enforce social distancing, and waiters are typically forced to come in contact with customers when they're serving food.

Workers wearing masks can also indicate if the restaurant is taking other safety measures seriously. It is hard to tell just how carefully workers are following sanitizing policies, but it's immediately clear if people are wearing masks.

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You can't get a reservation.

You can't get a reservation.
Fumio Horikawa prepares on May 6, 2020, to reopen his sushi restaurant in Tokyo the following day after closing for more than a month amid the coronavirus pandemic. Kyodo News/Getty Images)

Limited tables and social distancing measures mean that fewer people will be allowed into a restaurant at a time. While employees can turn customers away at the door, a more convenient way to impose limits is by requiring reservations.

"I think a lot more of the places that used to just be relying on walk-ins are going to have to start actively managing the restaurants, and they are going to use our software to do so," Steve Hafner, the CEO of OpenTable and Kayak, told Business Insider's Gloria Dawson.

You don't need to count out all restaurants that allow walk-in customers. But, making a reservation can ensure you're visiting a restaurant that is following guidelines on how many customers should be allowed inside — and avoid the disappointment of being turned away.

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COVID-19 cases are still on the rise in your community.

COVID-19 cases are still on the rise in your community.
Waffle House blocks off seats as it reopens dining rooms. AP Photo/Russ Bynum

The White House's guidelines for reopening say that states need to see 14 days of declining COVID-19 symptoms and cases (or a decrease in the percentage of positive tests within that time frame) before reopening businesses. Hospitals must able to treat all patients without crisis care and have a "robust" testing process available for workers.

If you live in an area where the number of COVID-19 cases is still increasing and hospitals are struggling to provide care for patients, it may not be safe to return to restaurants, even if dining rooms are open.

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COVID-19IndiaCases: 906kDeaths: 23.7kRecovered: 571k
COVID-19WorldCases: 12.76MDeaths: 566kRecovered: 7.22M
COVID-19USACases: 3.22MDeaths: 134kRecovered: 1.03M