12 Do’s and Don’ts for Avoiding Germs at Restaurants

When you're ready to venture out to your favorite local spot, help protect yourself and your family with these restaurant health tips.

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Valencia, Spain; 18th May 2020: Opening of bar and cafeteria terraces following the rules of hygiene and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic
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Do sit outside

Summer is alfresco dining season, so take advantage of those warm rays by opting for an outdoor table. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend choosing restaurants that offer outdoor seating with tables spaced 6 feet apart from one another for a less risky dining experience. This allows for better air circulation and less chance of being exposed to COVID-19.

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Portrait of a beautiful waitress working at a restaurant wearing a facemask while holding a notepad and looking at the camera – pandemic lifestyle concepts
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Don’t use their pen

When heading out to dinner, grab a pen for signing the bill before leaving your house. Touching restaurant items like pens and door handles can put you at risk for coming in contact with germs. Do your best to avoid touching any extra items and wipe down your pen with an antibacterial wipe when you get home.

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A Mexican restaurant adapts to the Covid-19 lockdown. The owner hands an order to a customer outside the restaurant; they are both wearing gloves and masks.
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Do wear a mask

Even if your local restaurant has planned for social distancing, it’s not always possible to stay 6 feet away from others. Wear a mask to the restaurant (it’s a good idea for grocery store safety, too) and keep it on until you’re ready to eat or drink.

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Rome, Italy, May 18 -- The owner of a pizzeria in the historic center of Rome near Piazza Navona measures the distance between the tables to ensure social distancing for the reopening of his restaurant after the end of the two month restrictions imposed by the lockdown for the Covid-19 crisis.
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Don’t get too close to other diners

As much as we love them, this isn’t the time for community dining tables or church suppers. When dining out, it’s crucial to continue following social distancing guidelines and stay 6 to 10 feet from others. If you’re unsure if you’ll be able to keep a safe distance, call the restaurant and ask about their policy.

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Closeup shot of an unrecognizable woman washing her hands
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Do wash your hands

You’d think we’d be tired of this advice by now but it’s just too important not to mention. Washing your hands properly is one of the most effective ways to stay healthy. Do so before leaving the house and when you get home. If you have a small bottle of hand sanitizer, bring it with you to use at your table before eating. Many restaurants are providing them for customers, too.

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Businessman in cafe is wearing mask for protection against coronavirus
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Don’t linger at your table

Once you’re finished enjoying your meal, head home for one of our tasty quarantine baking recipes. The longer you’re out in public, the greater your chance of being exposed to coronavirus. If you’re not ready to end the night just yet, take a walk or drive around a new neighborhood for a change of scenery.

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A business owner changing the store sign to OPEN after being closed for a period of time due to social distancing guidelines related to Coronavirus.
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Do follow the restaurant’s rules

As more businesses start to reopen, they’re working closely with local health departments and following CDC guidelines. The safety rules may vary by restaurant, with some establishments requiring masks and others not. Take a peek at their website or Facebook page so you know what to expect before arriving. These grocery shopping tips can help with restaurant dining, too.

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Senior woman coughs while having telehealth appointment on digital tablet with her doctor
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Don’t go out if you’re feeling sick

If you’ve been feeling under the weather, postpone your night on the town. You can still enjoy carryout with a no-contact delivery option to tide you over until you’re back to feeling healthy. Having major cabin fever? Here’s how to make the most of your time at home.

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Cashless payment as a socially distanced business.
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Do pay with a credit card

Protect yourself and your server from extra germs by paying with your credit card when the bill arrives. Cash has touched countless hands, so using a credit card is simpler; you can even wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe when you arrive home.

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Eskişehir Turkey. Friends in hotel/ luxury restaurant
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Don’t bring a large group

Save your big birthday celebration for your family’s weekly Zoom call; eating out right now is safest with the people who live in your home. If you’ve been craving more together time with extended family and friends, schedule phone calls or host a virtual wine tasting.

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Waitress Stephanie Thiem (L) takes an order from guests Jens Krugmann (C) and Karin Fanselow (R) at the reopened Cafe Prag in Schwerin, northeastern Germany on May 9, 2020 amid the ongoing Covid-19, coronavirus pandemic. - The traditional cafe and restaurant welcomed sit in customers after two months of closure as restaurants in the state of Mecklenburg Western Pomerania were allowed to reopen under strict hygiene conditions Saturday, May 9, that saw a trickle of returning customers as the north eastern state and Germany are easing corona virus restrictions. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP) (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)
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Do avoid touching extra items

We know coronavirus germs can live on surfaces, so do your best to avoid touching common areas like doorknobs, menus or the bar. Check out the menu online before going to the restaurant and, as we mentioned, be sure to wash your hands before eating and once you arrive home.

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Close up shot of business owner putting open sign restaurant , but only for pick up delivery and take away food only, during Covid 19 pandemic
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Don’t forget that you can still get carryout

While these tips can make dining out less risky, eating at a restaurant can’t be considered 100% safe for the time being. Until you’re ready to get out in public more, enjoy all of your restaurant faves with carryout or delivery (or make one of these copycat recipes at home).

Carrie Madormo, RN
Carrie is a health writer and nurse who specializes in healthy eating and wellness through food. With a master’s degree in public health from the Medical College of Wisconsin, she strives to translate the latest health and nutrition research into interesting, actionable articles. During her six years at Taste of Home, Carrie has answered hundreds of reader questions about health and nutrition, such as if pomegranate seeds are safe to eat, why pregnant women crave pickles and how much caffeine is in a shot of espresso. Carrie is also a former health coach and food blogger.