Because everything has changed in the past year, and now we need to adapt.

people dining inside a restaurant
Getty Images

While the pandemic has taken its toll on almost every industry imaginable, the effect it’s had on restaurants, their workers, and their ability to remain open and of service to the public has been massive. While some of our favorite spots have made changes to help serve the community by becoming grocery stores and providing those in need with essential resources, others have adapted to the increasingly popular ghost-kitchen format (i.e., pop-up kitchens that do delivery only). However our favorite spots have found a way to stay afloat through the last year, we are excited to see them reopen along with the reintroduction of on-site dining. See below a picture of the Orso Pasta Pop-Up that’s been taking place every weekend in the lot next to Employees Only.

Just as restaurants have adapted over the past year, now we diners need to do the same. Things have changed, the old routines no longer apply, and if you haven’t been out in months and months, it can all be pretty confusing (honestly, we’re still getting used to it, too.) To help everyone out, we’ve put together the following guidelines to keep in mind the next time a hankering for steak-frites, sushi, or carbonara lures you out of the house and into a restaurant. 

1. Tips Start at 20%

When I was younger, my grandma discouraged me from eating out if I couldn’t afford to tip 20 percent. She was right. The past year has proven that restaurant workers are essential workers, and they deserve the extra recognition. If 20 percent is too much, do like I did—stay home and save up.

2. Call If You’re Running Late

More Videos From Sunset

As restaurants get back into the groove of functioning at higher capacities again, a lot of our fave spots are becoming reservation-only to minimize large crowds gathering at entryways—and they’re taking fewer reservations to accommodate lower capacity limits. That’s why it’s important now more than ever to avoid “no-showing” a reservation. Cancel ahead of time, or, if you’re running late, even by 15 minutes, call and try to move to a later slot. 

3. Be Mindful of the Time

Gone are the days where we sat and enjoyed a bottle of wine for three hours while taking slow bites of desserts and sipping decaf. Most restaurants now have 90-minute dining periods in place. If the host lets you know there is a limit, please be courteous and respect it, remembering when you first sat down and trying to wrap up as the end nears. Don’t rely on your server to remind you: They’re often managing so many tables, they can’t keep track of who sat down when.

4. Everything Is Digital Now

In the past year, tons of restaurants have gone fully digital, from substituting online menus for paper (accessed on your phone through a QR code) to eschewing cash in favor of credit cards or Venmo. Yes, it’s annoying, and servers probably hate them more than we do at this point, but just bear with it. If your phone’s dead or service is funky, most restaurants have a spare paper menu to lend you—or a wifi password for better access.

5. Bring a Mask (and Wear It When Necessary)

While you might not have to wear your mask at your table (because how would you eat?), most places ask that you still wear your mask in common areas like on your way to the bathroom or as you move around the space. If you get a few drinks in your system and end up a little forgetful or are making a beeline to the bathroom, be courteous and wear your mask on your way from point A to point B. 

Read the Current Issue

Get one year of Sunset—and all kinds of bonuses—for just $24.95. Subscribe now!

Keep Reading: