We all breathed a sigh of relief when we regulations around ordering takeaways were lifted, now we’re trying to figure out restaurant etiquette and the ‘new normal’ as restaurants are opened…

So what are the rules? If you venture out for a romantic meal at your favourite spot, do you need to wear a mask the entire time?

Let’s face it, it’s a jungle out there. Everyone is struggling to keep up with the changing rules of the various levels of lockdown, and it often feels like we are stuck in a game of peekaboo… now you see me, now you don’t… now we can buy alcohol, now we can’t.

“The reopening of restaurants is certainly a sign that things are slowly returning to ‘normal’,” says  Rioma Cominelli, a Director at First Loyalty Plus.

But, she adds that there will be nothing ‘normal’ about your dining experience. “The rules of engagement have changed. Navigating unchartered waters and venturing out to enjoy a meal at our favourite eateries, can be tricky at best.”

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Whilst we all know that we legally need to wear a mask, complete the register on arrival, and sit 1.5m apart; many of us are still struggling with the ‘unsaid’, ‘not-so-obvious’ restaurant etiquette!

Rioma sheds some light on fine art of eating out in the new ‘normal’:

1. Be conscious

Unless you have perfected the art of eating and drinking with a mask on (alas, many have given it an unsuccessful bash according to their social media feeds), you are going to need to remove it.

But, when it’s off, can it stay off? The jury is still out on that. Whilst some restaurants are stricter than others, the general rule of thumb is that if you are not putting something in your mouth, keep it on.

2. Be cool

Seeing friends, family and colleagues for the first time in three months is bound to get you on your feet and going in for a bear hug. Don’t. Aside from the deathly stares you are likely to get, it’s truly better to be safe than sorry. Instead, greet one another with the Cyril-inspired elbow tap.

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3. Be exclusive

Not being able to physically visit friends and family at home, has many of us racing to make restaurant reservations. But, think twice before you book a table of ten.

You are  likely to be miles apart (all restaurants are required to have 1.5m gaps between chairs – although some are not implementing it yet), which means you may not only be shouting across a long table, you are unlikely to socialise and connect either.

Rather, stick to smaller, exclusive groups – it is not only better for catching up, you will also reduce the risk of spreading any potential germs far and wide.

 4. Be kind

Understand that the restaurant staff are working under very unusual conditions, and often with a skeleton crew, so be kind and be a little more understanding if your meal does not arrive quite as quickly as usual.

They’re doing their best to give you a great experience, so be gracious where you can.  And no, they cannot sneak you a glass of wine in a tumbler pretending it’s fruit juice, so don’t ask!

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5. Be generous

Most waiters have been unable to work for the past three months, and are quite possibly stressed right now.

If you’ve cleverly taken advantage of the First Loyalty Plus programme, you’ll be getting a great discount off your meal (in some cases up to R120 cash back), so please tip generously (plus you’re likely to feel like a million bucks after giving generously too!)

“If you’re not quite ready to venture out, that’s okay! You can still support your favourite eatery by ordering take-away meals,”  Rioma concludes.


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