After months of limiting their operations to delivery and takeout due to shelter-in-place restrictions, California restaurants are once again hosting diners for onsite service. As of early June, most of California’s 58 counties had met the state’s public health benchmarks for dine-in service, with modifications in place to comply with state and county health protocols.
“Restaurateurs are excited to reopen, and have been welcoming their guests back warmly,” says Sharokina Shams, vice president of public affairs at the California Restaurant Association. “They’re eager to show everyone how hard they’ve worked to be open safely.”
Reopening isn’t only beneficial for restaurant owners, employees, and fans of California’s vibrant dining scene, but for the communities they serve. “Restaurants generate more sales tax in California than any other type of business,” Shams says, “and that sales tax helps fund public education and local services like firefighting. When you show support to restaurants, you’re showing support to neighborhood businesses that are the backbone of their communities.”
To keep customers and staff members healthy, restaurants have ramped up sanitation and safety practices in accordance with the California Department of Health’s Industry Guidance for Restaurants, Bars, and Wineries. Safety measures include physical distancing, conducting regular employee health screenings, and requiring employees to wear face coverings when they can’t maintain a six-foot distance from other workers and customers.
“Keep in mind that for every noticeable change guests see,” says Shams, “there are several other steps that restaurant employees are taking to maintain rigorous cleaning and sanitizing routines.”
As guests return to California restaurants, they’ll notice several changes in dining room configurations and procedures. Because tables must be spaced at least six feet apart to meet distancing requirements, many restaurants have increased outdoor seating to compensate for the smaller indoor capacity. You’re also likely to see disposable or electronic menus that can be accessed via smartphones; silverware pre-rolled in napkins and handed out to guests after they are seated; partitions placed between booths; and hand sanitizer stations. High-touch items such as condiments are available from servers by request, and you’ll be asked to box up your own leftovers.
Know Before You Dine
Because California’s shelter-in-place modifications are subject to change and may vary between counties, be sure to check for regional updates before you head for your favorite Golden State restaurant. Here’s where to find the latest information:
California Restaurant Association: The organization’s Coronavirus Resources page provides details on the state’s reopening phases and restaurant-related news.
Dining by County: Check the California Restaurant Association’s web page for a current list of cities and counties that have received state approval to reopen for outdoor and/or indoor dining.
California Reopening Roadmap: Here you’ll find updates on the status of Governor Gavin Newsom’s four-stage reopening plan for restaurants and other businesses.
Tips for a Great Dining Experience
Follow these tips for a safe and enjoyable dining experience at California’s diverse and delicious restaurants.
Reserve a table: Booking in advance will make it easier for restaurants to stagger guest arrival and departure times in compliance with distancing rules. If your table isn’t quite ready when you arrive, you may be asked to wait outside or in your vehicle until seating is available.
Arrive together: Restaurant hosts are required to bring all members of your dining party to the table at the same time, so make sure everyone is present before asking to be seated.
Mask up: You may be asked to wear a face covering while checking in or when you are not seated at your table, so be sure to bring one along.
Stick with your own group: Restaurants are asking guests to limit the number of patrons at a single table to a household unit or patrons who have asked to be seated together. Resist the urge to seat-hop if you spot friends at another table.
Respect safety protocols: Restaurant hosts may wish to screen you for virus symptoms when you arrive or ask you to use hand sanitizer before allowing you to enter. If so, be kind and roll with it. These procedures are in place for your protection, and that of other diners and restaurant employees. (And if you are experiencing virus symptoms, please stay home.)