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Here's What Dining Out at Restaurants Post-Lockdown Will Look Like

The "new normal" will make going out to dinner a unique experience.

As the coronavirus lockdown enters what feels like the umpteenth week, many of us are wondering when life will return to normal again. But, for restaurant owners and staff, a safe reopening of small businesses cannot come soon enough. The situation is dire.

Depending on where you live in the country, and current and recent trends of the coronavirus outbreak, there is more and more talk of a staggered reopening.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and California Governor Gavin Newsom discussed this very topic in recent press conferences. The truth is, a return to pre-coronavirus "normalcy" is likely a year to 18 months away (i.e. how long it will probably take to develop, test, and produce a reliable vaccine for the deadly COVID-19 contagion).

For many, going out to eat is at the top of the list of things to do post lockdown. But, going to your favorite restaurant after the stay-at-home guidelines end is sure to look very different than what you're used to. Here's exactly how…

Masked waiters

man wearing air filter mask having Dyspnea, breathing difficulty, respiratory distress in unhealthy, danger, polluted air environment

During a Tuesday press conference about reopening businesses in his state, California Governor Newsom said that in the coming months, "you may be having dinner with a waiter wearing gloves, maybe a face mask—dinner where the menu is disposable, where half of the tables in that restaurant no longer appear." Will that be a weird and surreal experience? Sure, but one that everyone will most likely be willing to endure.

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No more buffets

variety food buffet

Sneeze guards or not, having an open dish of your favorite stew-like concoction is not a smart idea in the age of an aerosol-enabled COVID-19 contagion. Limiting interaction with other individuals who may have the coronavirus will certainly take a priority over buffet options at your favorite dining spot.

Tables at least six feet apart

il piccolo restaurant
Il Piccolo Ristoro/Yelp

Because social distancing of being at least six feet apart from one another will likely continue (at least at the beginning of whatever "staged" reopening we will see), restaurant tables will certainly be situated further apart from one another. Sure, there will be some clear upsides to roomier dining rooms (quieter dining, more space to stretch out, etc.) but this will come with some downsides (harder-to-get reservations immediately come to mind…).

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More expensive bills

Restaurant bill check

Restaurant prices are almost certain to go up, and most likely, at a considerable level.  There are simply too many challenging variables for restaurant owners to navigate, not least of which will be the considerable depletion of diners they can server during the "new normal" reopening.

Consider a restaurant that is designed to serve 50 diners at the same time. If social distancing requires that number to be cut in half, that means fewer meals served, ergo, more revenue needed per meal.

Smaller menus

open menu with photos and description of dishes

One of the bigger food-related coronavirus narratives has been the disruption in the supply chain. The recent closing of the nation's largest pork processing plant led to real concerns of a national meat shortage. Day-to-day ingredients and restaurant supplies will be more challenging to procure, which almost certainly will be reflected in tighter, more focused menus.

Fewer options

Worker standing next to bar of closed restaurant

The very sad truth to this coronavirus outbreak is that very many restaurants simply won't survive. These are businesses built on very small margins and are often owned and operated not to make riches, but out of love for serving great food. There are estimates that as many as one in three non-corporate restaurants won't survive this economic downturn, which means diners will have fewer options from which to choose.

Related: Staggering Map Shows Just How Many Restaurant Workers Have Been Affected by U.S. Lockdown

Tougher reservations

Restaurant hostess

Fewer restaurant options with an increased demand for diners eager to eat out? Good luck getting that reservation at the hottest spot in town. There will be a surge in eating out once it becomes a safe option again, but you may need to take the reservation you get. It's an extremely challenging time for restaurant owners right now, so see how they are supporting their employees right during this time.

READ MORE: 9 Worst Grocery Store Chains to Shop at During the Pandemic