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Restaurants You Shouldn't Go to Even If They're Open

Avoid these red flags during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Right now, Americans are confused—to dine out or not to dine out? The answer is, well, complicated.

Dining restrictions look vastly different from state-to-state thanks to COVID-19, with some states having the same guidelines enforced statewide and others having different limitations set in place from city-to-city. On the plus side, COVID vaccinations are helping to lower the number of cases. Still, there continue to be safety guidelines that should always be followed at restaurants—regardless of where you may reside in the U.S. and what your vaccination status is.

If you plan to dine inside (or outside) at a restaurant, be cautious about the following five red flags that suggest you may be better off going elsewhere. And for more, read up on the one vitamin doctors are urging everyone to take right now.

Red Flag: Indoor establishments with no visible ventilation

chain restaurant

The key to safe indoor dining? According to the nation's leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, adequate airflow is crucial. In an Instagram Live conversation Dr. Fauci had with HIV/AIDS-LGBTQ+ activist Peter Staley in September 2020, when indoor dining was beginning to resume in major cities, Fauci said, "I think anything that has airflow out, not airflow in the room" is the key for businesses to start reopening their dining rooms.

Bottom line: If you plan to dine indoors and don't see any windows open letting fresh air in, consider patronizing another business.

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Outdoor spaces that offer minimal ventilation

outdoor dining bubbles on New York sidewalk

The same concept of ventilation can be applied to confined outdoor dining spaces as well. As functional, intimate, and trendy as they may seem, some of these tents or even small shed-like setups can be a breeding ground for the virus. This can especially be an issue if you're dining with someone outside of your household.

Bottom line: If you go this route, make sure there are visible vents in the pod or tent before sitting down to eat with someone you don't live with.

Red Flag: The restaurant doesn't enforce a strict capacity limit

People with face mask drinking at coffee house

Dining restrictions differ at the city and state levels, which means the capacity limit varies drastically depending on where you live. For example, restaurants in some states must restrict indoor dining services to 50% capacity and must adhere to a 10 p.m. curfew, whereas in areas, such as New York City, capacity is only allowed to 25%.

Bottom line: Before you indoor dine, make sure you're aware of the guidelines set in place for your city so you can gauge whether or not a restaurant is following best practices so you stay as safe as possible.

Red Flag: Buffets


Restaurants that offer self-serve buffets should be avoided at this time to minimize the risk of exposure. In fact, Maryland and Wyoming have both banned buffet services altogether. Think about it, if everyone is touching the same serving utensils and hovering over the same food, your risk of contracting the virus could heighten with these two factors alone.

Bottom line: Steer clear of buffets until further notice.

Restaurants that have had outbreaks

indoor dining

This is as simple as staying on top of any news of COVID outbreaks in your town. Check online to see if any outbreaks have been linked back to one particular business, which includes cases among a restaurant's staff and/or diners.

Bottom line: Stay in the know about the restaurant you're planning on attending. Do your research in advance.

For more, check out the 50 things popular restaurant chains don't want you to know.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the former news editor of Eat This, Not That! Read more about Cheyenne