Is It Okay To Go Out To Eat Now?

Missing your favorite restaurant? Here’s how to decide if eating there is a good idea.

Many people are understandably worried about dining in restaurants these days. Their concerns are certainly justified, as some new COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the country have been traced to restaurants and bars. Evaluating your risk and the restaurant’s safety plan can help you decide if it’s a good time to visit your favorite dining spot.

Consider Your Risk

If you are in a high risk group, it may be best to stick to take-out orders or restaurants that offer curbside pick-up, particularly if you live in a coronavirus hot spot. If you do choose to eat out, a restaurant that offers outside dining may be the best option.

You’re more likely to develop serious complications from COVID-19 if you have an underlying health condition, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease or a respiratory ailment. Diseases or medications that lower your natural immunity may also increase your risk. Age is another consideration when assessing your risk. That’s because 8 in 10 deaths occur in people who are 65 or older, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The risk gradually increases with age, so if you’re 55, you’ll have a higher risk than someone who is 25.

Ask about the Restaurant’s Safety Plan

The CDC and state and local health departments have issued guidelines for the safe reopening of indoor and outdoor dining areas. Before you show up at the restaurant, make sure the restaurant is actually following those guidelines. Depending on your area, recommendations may include:

  • Spacing tables at least six feet apart whether they’re indoors or outdoors.
  • Offering outdoor dining when possible. (When you dine outside, air currents disperse virus droplets, reducing your risk of catching the virus. Although it’s still possible to be infected when you dine outdoors, it’s less likely.)
  • Asking customers to wait outside or in their cars until they receive a call or text that the table is ready.
  • Requiring temperature checks for employees and patrons.
  • Using disposable paper menus and placemats and one-use condiment containers.
  • Requiring staff to wear masks, use personal protective equipment and wash their hands frequently.
  • Requesting that customers use masks when not eating or drinking.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting items that are touched often, such as tables, door handles and restrooms.
  • Removing buffets and salad bars.
  • Offering contactless payment options.

Many restaurants provide information about the safety steps they’re taking on their websites or social media pages. If the restaurant you want to visit doesn’t, call and ask the staff to explain their procedures.

Avoid Large Gatherings

After spending months at home, you’re probably eager to enjoy a restaurant meal with your friends again. Although the tables in the restaurant may be spaced six feet apart, it won’t be possible to maintain social distancing with the other diners at your table. If you limit your group to your immediate household, you’ll keep your virus risk lower than if you go out to eat with a larger party. It’s a good idea to stick to socializing with others outside of your household in your own backyard or other outdoor area where you have more room to remain physically distant.

It’s important to consider the current virus spread in your area and your own personal risk factors before you make a reservation at a restaurant. If you decide to visit a restaurant, keeping these recommendations in mind can help lower your risk of contracting COVID-19 while you’re out to eat.


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Date Last Reviewed: July 8, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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One thought on “Is It Okay To Go Out To Eat Now?”

  1. This is a tough one! You have great suggestions for people who want to try eating out again.

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