Raring to Dine Out Again? Keep These Things in Mind

Safety plays a role in enjoying a good meal.

(SPOT.ph) We're nine months into the quarantine and a lot has changed in most people's lives. The lockdown has been especially tough on the restaurant industry, for one, with most establishments forced to scale down operations, lower their maximum dining capacity, or even close down permanently. While many operational restaurants are doing what they could to keep their respective businesses afloat—whether it's changing up menus, offering delivery services, or combining kitchens—some are struggling to even make ends meet.

The dining scene has changed due to the pandemic.
PHOTO BY Mitchell Hollander/Unsplash

As a way of showing support to the food and beverage industry, Jose Victor Suarez, communications consultant of EAT Public Relations; and Alicia Colby-Sy, food writer and former executive editor of Town & Country Philippines, thought of starting #EatOutNow, a campaign that's meant to spark discussions on the best practices and safety standards in the industry, as well as how to responsibly eat out. 

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"Some people may not be ready to dine out yet and that is fine," says Colby-Sy in an interview with SPOT.ph. "Everyone has their own circumstances. If they aren't comfortable going to restaurants just yet then they can continue to order in and have food delivered; it's a great way to support restaurants," she says. "There are many people, however, who want to begin to return to the activities that they enjoyed pre-pandemic...I do feel that with adequate caution this can be done safely, but the only one who can make that decision is the individual. There should be no shaming either way."

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Colby-Sy herself has been dining out since June, when doing so was allowed again. "I have seen the experience change throughout the last few months for the better," she shares. "I find that now I am able to enjoy myself even more as restaurateurs have learned how to work within the new normal setting."

When dining out, it's important to follow safety protocols.   
PHOTO BY Alex Holyoake/Unsplash
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Restaurants today follow a set of government-mandated health and safety protocols, which include a no mask, no entry policy; filling out a health checklist upon entry; contactless order-taking; and more. The maximum capacity allowed for dine-in has evolved over the months, too: while the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases initially advised restaurants to operate at only 30% max in June, they raised this to 50% in July, and beyond that in October.

"It goes without saying that people should make sure that the restaurants they choose should be adhering to all the [said] protocols," says Colby-Sy. "There is no excuse for restaurants not to follow that, and from my own experience, most are [doing so]."

Some malls and restaurants have al-fresco areas, which is ideal for those who are more comfortable with the idea of outdoor dining. "Outdoor dining, with socially distanced tables, are how many diners are choosing to eat out these days," she says. "For indoor dining, I would make sure that tables are distanced and that the establishment is really operating at a reduced capacity. This ties back to my first rule for myself—the restaurant must be enforcing all required safety protocols."

And if there's anything you're unsure of or would like to know before dining out, you can always give the restaurant a call. "I have found through the years that restaurant owners, chefs, and their staff are among the most generous and obviously, among the most hospitable people they are. For most of them, it's in their DNA, so I'm sure they will be happy to answer your questions before they welcome you back," Colby-Sy shares.

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Note that the onus does not lie in the restaurants alone. "I would like to emphasize that trust is a two-way street of respect and responsibility," says Colby-Sy. "Just as restaurants should do whatever they can to keep their patrons safe, diners should do their best at keeping the restaurant staff safe, too."

Colby-Sy reminds diners to do their part—by wearing masks when you're not eating or drinking, washing your hands periodically, extending your patience with the staff ("since the execution of certain safety protocols takes time"), and staying home if you aren't feeling well or have been recently exposed to someone who's sick. "Eating out and dining is a communal experience wherein we need to look out for everyone in the communities we choose."

It's totally understandable if you prefer to stay at home—but if you do decide that you're ready to dine out, these are just some of the restaurants in Manila and what they're doing to make the dining experience safe:

Gallery by Chele

PHOTO BY Gallery by Chele
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Gallery by Chele highlights Filipino ingredients and employs traditional cooking methods in a contemporary light. They reopened in October with great emphasis on safety: employees, suppliers, and restaurant guests are made to follow all the necessary safety and cleanliness precautions, like body-temperature checks and foot baths upon entering the restaurant.

Tables are spaced one meter apart, helping ensure social distancing. Face masks, face shields and single-use gloves are used by all restaurant staff. There is also extensive cleaning of all areas from the kitchen to the dining areas to the front of house, as well as deep-cleaning of the entire restaurant at the end of every work week.

Moreover, cutlery are stored and sanitized in their front-of-house UV box, and every dining table is covered in a sanitized table cloth. When you dine in, you'll have access to no-touch automatic dispensers at the reception desk, in restrooms, and at every dining table. You'll be provided single-use envelopes for personal face masks, and you can request a QR code for the menu. You also have different contactless options for payment, including PayMaya, GCash, and online bank transfer, though you can still opt for cash or credit card payments—for which they'll be utitlizing a quick UV sanitization process.

Gallery by Chele is at 5/F Clipp Center, 11th Avenue corner 39th Street, Bonifacio Global City. For more information, check out Gallery by Chele's Facebook page.

Spiral

PHOTO BY Facebook/Spiral Manila, Spiral
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Spiral—a.k.a. Sofitel Manila's famously massive buffet with a diverse selection of just about any food you can imagine—also reopened in October, and they're making sure to prioritize safety above everything. Sofitel's parent company Accor has launched the ALLSAFE Cleanliness and Prevention Label, a set of global cleanliness and prevention criteria developed with and vetted by Bureau Veritas, a world leader in testing, inspections, and certification.

The seating capacity is limited to 30%, with one-meter spacing between guests. You'll find transparent dividers installed on reception desks and culinary ateliers, but you can also rent private dining rooms if you wish. The Spiral staff is equipped with safety apparel, and there's a strict one-way route as you go around the different ateliers.

For safety purposes, each plate will only be in contact with the guest, apart from the chefs serving the dish from their ateliers. Spiral is also implementing a one-dish-per-plate policy to avoid cross-contamination. For made-to-order dishes, you'll be provided with order numbers for claiming. Moreover, there's an online beverage menu accessible through a QR code on each table, and they accept payments through contactless methods like GCash, Alipay, WeChatPay, and GrabPay.

Spiral is at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila, CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City. For more information, check out Spiral Manila's Facebook page.

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