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5 Tips for Wearing a Mask in a Restaurant

Some say eating and mask-wearing don't mix—here's what experts recommend.

Summer heat is ramping up and making it seem almost impossible to comfortably wear a face mask, but this piece of PPE is here to stay. While jogging, biking, and other forms of exercising may seem particularly arduous to perform with a mask on, many of us are asking ourselves what eating at restaurants will look like while masks are mandatory.

Do you keep it on the whole time? Tug it to the side as you take a bite? Do you ask for a straw so you can slip it under the mask and enjoy your drink? While we're yet to see whether restaurants put forth their own set of best practices around mask-wearing, here are some basic guidelines you can follow to be a responsible citizen. Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest food and restaurant news delivered straight to your inbox.


Arrive Wearing a Mask

entering restaurant

. . . or you may not be allowed to enter! That's right, governors of some states, like New York and Colorado, have issued executive orders that allow businesses to turn customers away if they are not wearing face masks. So if you want to make sure you get a table at a restaurant in the first place, a face mask is the equivalent to a secret password that will get you in the door (just like shoes and shirts before it).


When the Food Comes, Take Your Mask Off

girl in yellow sweater eating pizza at restaurant

Experts agree that taking your mask off and putting it back on between bites would actually be counterproductive to its efficiency. According to Durland Fish, PhD, professor emeritus of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, so much constant fussing with your mask could actually increase the risk of spreading coronavirus from your mask to your hands (and then spreading it around). Whatever the reasoning, you can enjoy your food as a rare respite from mask-wearing. Here are some other mistakes you may be making with your mask.


Remove Your Mask Safely

remove mask

To remove your mask safely, experts recommend handling the straps instead of grabbing the fabric that covers your actual face. The front of your mask is probably the most contaminated part, either from your own respiratory droplets or from the environment, so touching the fabric poses another risk of cross-contamination.


Bring a Bag For Your Mask

Waiter with protective medical mask and gloves serving guest with coffee at an outdoor bar café or restaurant new normal concept reopening after quarantine

When you remove your mask to eat at the restaurant, don't just throw it into the depths of your purse, or even worse, place it on the table. It's best to bring a clean, breathable receptacle for your mask, like a paper bag, so any moisture that remains on it has time to dry. This way, you're preventing growth of any mold or fungus on your mask. Some restaurants will provide you with a bag, but it's always safest to bring your own just in case they don't.


Put the Mask Back on Right After Eating

couple with protective medical mask having coffee break in a restaurant, new normal coronavirus concept

Your friendly waitstaff might provide some guidelines to their preferred mask-wearing etiquette. But it's a safe bet that once you're done eating, your mask should go back on your face, especially before the waiter comes to clear your plates and bring you the check.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.
Mura Dominko
Mura is ETNT's Executive Editor, leading the coverage of America's favorite restaurant chains, grocery stores, and viral food moments. Read more about Mura