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Do's & Don'ts of Eating Out During the Pandemic

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

 (Server at The Loyal located in the West Village in Manhattan)
Sarah Boess (she/her/hers)

What's it like working at a restaurant during a pandemic?

This week we interviewed Sarah Boess, a server at "The Loyal" located in the West Village in Manhattan, to speak about her experience and give the best tips & tricks to eating out during the pandemic. Pull out the Notes app on your phone- there's some really eye-opening tips we're about to unpack!


  • Wear your mask until you’re actively eating and drinking. When you’re being greeted by the server, ordering, waiting for food, finished eating, etc. put your masks back on.

  • Stack your own dirty plates and put them to the side of the table (the less myself or a busser have to lean over your table and reach across you, the better)

  • Hold onto your silverware between courses. Silverware goes through 3-4 hands before it hits your table, so avoid having a whole fresh set brought to you.

  • Buy gift cards to your favorite small business restaurants! It'll help them maintain an income while keeping everyone safe. Plus it doesn't hurt to stock up on Holiday gifts early!

  • Leave good reviews online when you have a great experience! People tend to only review places when they have bad experiences, which can sometimes skew reviews to the negative. Lots of restaurants will post good reviews in the back for the staff to see (and if you mention your server by name I can almost guarantee they'll see it).

  • Post a picture of your food or drinks and tag the restaurant! A lot of times small businesses can't afford to have a social media manager, so your free advertisement goes a long way.

  • Make a reservation! Even when you don't technically need one to get a table, it helps a restaurant understand how many people are going to be in at a time and plan staffing appropriately. Also, if you have any allergies or you are celebrating something, always communicate that in the reservation notes.

  • Write a note on your receipt if the service/food was good. This has nothing to do with the pandemic, it just makes us feel good.

"If I get sick, I risk getting all of my tables sick until I show symptoms so it’s really important not to downplay these risks."


  • Stay past closing. You shouldn’t sit down for dinner at a restaurant if there’s less than an hour till closing. We came in to work in a pandemic, let us go home on time.

  • Share dishes with people you haven’t been quarantining with. If you have to share something, ask your server to have it split on two plates.

  • Ask to be moved to another table. Just because another table doesn't have someone sitting at it does not mean it is "open." Hosts seat you at a specific table to balance how many tables each server has at a given moment and throughout the night. Of course if there is something actively wrong with where you've been sat, the restaurant should be able to accomodate you moving, but please don't drag the host into a game of musical tables in the middle of a dinner rush.

  • Be a "no show" (aka. not showing up to a reservation without calling ahead). A restaurant will turn away walk-ins to keep your table for you and actively lose money when that table stays empty.

  • Rely on Google for menu or hours information. Google takes longer to update those details; it's more reliable to check a restaurant's website or social media accounts.

"If your server is not properly wearing their mask, leave. It is a sign that none of the kitchen and support staff are wearing their masks and management does not care to enforce those rules."


  • Buying rounds of cocktails, buy a bottle of wine. Bartenders and barbacks are wearing masks, but their hands are in and on the drinks, which are then handled by a runner, in glasses that were likely polished by a back server. A bottle of wine passes through far less hands and you can wipe down the surface.

  • Handling physical menus, look up the restaurants menu on your phone.

  • Splitting checks across multiple cards, Venmo each other. The less of your personal items I handle, the better. Also, 'tap and pay cards' are great!

  • Using the pen the server gives you to sign the receipt, bring your own pen.

"If people find this helpful I’m happy to post more tips! Stay healthy and eat some good food!"

A little more about Sarah:

At "The Loyal" in NYC

Sarah has eight years of experience in food service- starting as a host at 16 in a local brew pub, she has since worked at ten different restaurants in Philadelphia, Boston and New York City in a variety of roles. Though her true passion in life exists in non-profit arts management, she has always enjoyed working in restaurants with good food, kind staff and friendly guests.

Follow Sarah on Instagram: @sarahboess

A BIG mahalo to Sarah for sharing all these great insights!


Looking for a place to eat?

Check out other restaurants and businesses in our village directory- Explore the Village!

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Stay safe everyone!

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