Restaurants in Texas were permitted to re-open under new strict guidelines just over a week ago. Indoor spaces are limited to 25% of their previous capacity. Menus are single use only. Condiments cannot be left on the table, but provided only on request. Flatware cannot be pre-placed on tables either and instead must be given to each guest after being seated.
Still, I haven’t dined in at any restaurants yet. I did do contactless pickup Saturday night from my favorite Austin restaurant. You order and pre-pay online, arrive at your assigned time, and wait outside. Your food is placed in a bin for pickup. One hand to pick it up, and place it in the back of my car, then hand sanitizer when I’m back in the car.
One German study found no coronavirus spread in restaurants. I’m skeptical. Another study found air conditioning spread the virus inside a restaurant.
Generally speaking prolonged close contact appears to be the primary mechanism for spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It’s not just coughs that emit droplets carrying the virus. Even speaking can emit low levels of the virus. Over a prolonged period of time there can be enough of a viral load to cause an infection. Most spread happens indoors, while the virus is far more likely to dissipate outdoors.
I’m going to have far more confidence dining outside, eating with my wife and daughter, but not meeting others for the meal, than eating indoors even at limited capacity. In most cases that still means coming into contact with a member of the wait staff who takes orders and delivers food, and of course food is being prepared by someone you do not see.
While this isn’t known to be a food-borne illness (I’m not aware of any studies showing someone getting sick from eating food with the virus) that’s still someone touching your plate. I’m bringing hand sanitizer with me because I don’t want to accidentally touch my face after touching my plate. That’s probably an extra and unnecessary layer of paranoia.
Mediamatic ETEN, in Amsterdam has introduced ‘quarantine greenhouses’ for diners to eat while socially-distanced. Wait staff “wear gloves and face shields to alleviate any risk of infections..[and t]hey also use long boards to bring dishes into the greenhouses to diners.” (HT: @JohnnyJet)
In these times we are reinspired by contamination precautions and the redesign of togetherness. Our greenhouses protect you from the outside and others while offering you a unique experience of intimate dining.
In restaurants and bars, a separate room is traditionally named in French: “chambre séparée”. It suggests a sexy kind of intimacy, here things can happen that should remain hidden from plain sight and not be heard by all. We’ve decided to name our greenhouses in French too. Although what happens inside will be a lot more public…
Credit: Mediamatic ETEN
Credit: Mediamatic ETEN
Tickets are pre-purchased online and all dates are currently sold out through the end of June.
I should say that I’d eat here provided I have confidence in the cleaning procedures they’re employing in their kitchen and in each ‘greenhouse’ between seatings. As Tyler Cowen points out trust is a huge requirement for successful re-openings. And it’s why I wonde if United Airlines will wind up in worse shape than even American – they’ve broken trust with customers and MileagePlus members as well as employees. That’s a problem when trust matters more than ever for businesses.