The Journal Gazette
Monday, March 16, 2020 1:00 am

Helpful tips for dining out

RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette

With the news of Ohio and Illinois restaurants being closed as virus concerns mount, it seems as if it is only a matter of time before Indiana follows suit.

But until then, here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to dining out amid these fearful times.

Delivery difficulty

With companies such as DoorDash and UberEats growing in popularity, they may seem like a logical choice for staying well fed without having to go out in public.

But considering the contamination risks, going to a restaurant might be safer.

At a restaurant, your food is theoretically handled by at least four people before it is placed in front of you – the prep cook/cooks, line cook/cooks, expediter at the window and then your server.

If you choose carry-out or have it delivered, that number grows as you have to add someone to take the food from the window to the host station, then you will have a host or manager taking it from that person, possibly another person handing that food to you or the delivery representative. Not only will the delivery rep be handling it, anyone in their vehicle could also come in contact with the parcel.

No double dipping

Never before has the social anxiety from the famous episode of “Seinfeld” been more pertinent.

While dining with friends Saturday at a Mexican restaurant, I was more cautious than usual. I asked for extra little salsa bowls to divide the cheese dip out, and I asked for three extra forks so we could cut pieces of our dishes to share with each other without using a fork that one of us may have eaten from.

Pay attention

Eating at a fast-service restaurant with an assembly-line preparation area in clear sight is a good way to calm your fears.

You can see the food handled, be sure new gloves are used after each item is made (this should be a must all the time) and eyeball the employees to make sure they are not only washing their hands and using proper handling practices, but also not coughing or sneezing (another thing that should not be happening anytime on a food line).

You also should be careful about beverage dispensers and condiment dispensers that are used by many people. They usually are not cleaned often enough and who knows how many people have come in contact with them. Never before has asking for ketchup packets instead of using the pumps been more acceptable.

And, of course, if you see an employee who is not being responsible or who appears ill, take it up with a manager and voice your concerns.

Do your part

I know some germ-fearing folks who have always brought their own utensils to restaurants, and I always sort of scratched my head at that until now.

Bringing your own disposable cutlery is not a bad idea at all, but make sure it is disposable. In case you have the bug and don't know it, you don't want to be hauling around contaminated forks and such that might come in contact with others.

Bringing and using disinfectant wipes to clean your tables, seats and especially any condiment bottles or community receptacles is a must right now – if you are one of the lucky ones who was able to obtain wipes before the stores were wiped out, that is.

You are also well within your rights – anytime, but especially right now – to ask a host to wipe down the table and the menus before you are seated.

Bring sanitizer with you, too, if you have some. It's not a bad idea to use it more than once during your meal after handling plates and bowls.

You can never be too careful.

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