These are tough times for the restaurant industry. And this morning, I'm really not in the mood to write an eviscerating review that might contribute to a Metro Vancouver business going bankrupt in the middle of a pandemic.
So I'm going to write a list of 10 recommendations to servers and managers. If you do these things, I'm more likely to return.
1. Contact information
If you don't ask for contact information, I'll assume you don't care about my health. Fortunately, most places in the Lower Mainland have gotten the message, but that wasn't the case earlier in the pandemic.
I like the way that Swad Indian Kitchen in West Vancouver does this. It has guests write their names and contact information in a book at the front door.
That way, the restaurant is more likely to get the correct information. If the person doesn't write down their name, staff will ensure that this is collected.
2. Hand sanitizer
Place hand sanitizer in a visible location near the front door or on the table. I was delighted when early in the pandemic, a server at Spice 72 Restaurant & Lounge in Surrey gave me a little bottle of hand sanitizer at the table. She encouraged me to bring it home, and I continue to make use of it from time to time.
Plexiglas at the entrance is a nice touch when you approach the person who will be seating you. This is something I noticed at Les Faux Bourgeois in East Vancouver. I liked it. Lots of the city's best restaurants, including Les Faux Bourgeois and Maenam, have installed Plexiglas between the tables.
Patronize them if you can afford to do so. The higher-end places often don't do as much takeout business as the cheaper joints.
Yet they're the ones that have often made the greatest investments improving ventilation, adding Plexiglas barriers, and creating more room between tables to create a safer dining experience.
Don't seat me next to the kitchen or beside where the drinks are being made when there are a bunch of empty tables elsewhere in the restaurant. If I see an empty area in the restaurant where I would like to sit for safety reasons, don't tell me that this is impossible unless there's a really good reason.
5. Nearby diners
Don't seat another table of two or more couples or a bunch of singles near me when there are empty tables farther away. If I see two couples going out for dinner together, I assume that they're disregarding Dr. Bonnie Henry's advice to only dine out with people in their household.
This leads me to surmise that they're not paying attention to other public-health recommendations—and I don't want to be anywhere near them.
On one occasion, I saw a young woman hugging her friends when they arrived at the table next to me. I immediately concluded that I was sitting next to a group of dunces. (Fortunately, there was Plexiglas separating the tables on that evening.)
At times like this, I'm on edge and I want to get out of the restaurant as soon as possible.
6. Serving from a distance
I really like it when the servers place the food on a longer table from a distance and then I reach out to take it. In these places after you finish the food, you put the plates back on the edge of the table so the servers can take them away from a distance.
It's not always easy to do this, given the shape of most tables. But this enhanced my enjoyment at SalaThai, Tap & Barrel in the Lower Lonsdale area, Ember Indian Kitchen, and Delhi-6 Indian Bistro.
7. Table talk
When you're sitting in a restaurant, it's sometimes nice to chat with the server. But you don't want that person within two metres of the table. Kudos to a server named Patrick Malone at La Cigale Bistro and Nazir Bharmal at Cayenne Bistro and Grill, who both understand this and keep their distance.
On occasion over the past year, I've had servers or owners get too close. They invade my space unnecessarily. Even if they're wearing masks, it doesn't put my mind at ease.
The best option is to keep conversation to a minimum during the pandemic unless a server or owner is sure that the guest wants to chat. They understand this concept at the White Spot on West Broadway. The staff have adjusted their behaviour in response to the pandemic—there's less small talk nowadays, which shows respect for customers' health.
For goodness sakes, place a pitcher of water on the table so I don't have to get up and go to the kitchen to ask for more. This has happened a few times during this pandemic. Don't assume that because I order a drink, I don't want water.
9. The bill, please!
Understand that some of us want to eat and run. We don't want to linger in a restaurant like in the good old days because we don't want to elevate our chance of contracting COVID-19.
So when we finish our meal, clear the table quickly and say "let me know when you want the bill". Don't leave us waiting forever. Again, kudos to White Spot.
10. Medical emergencies
If an older woman collapses on the floor in front of my table, don't pick her up quickly and place her on a chair without first checking to see if she might have suffered neurological damage. Ask her what day it is or some other simple question to ensure that she hasn't had a stroke or suffered a head injury.
Also, don't leave the woman sitting by herself slumped over in pain for seven or eight minutes as her daughter fetches her car when there are plenty staff in the room to keep her company. After the woman is helped to the car in obvious pain, don't leave the daughter standing for a long time waiting to pay the bill.
Yes, all of this happened in front of me during this pandemic. Fortunately, the woman only had a foot injury. But she looked like she was feeing miserable when I spotted her sitting by herself in the car as her daughter continued to be stuck inside the restaurant. It would have been easy to tell the daughter to go home, take care of your mom, and we can settle the bill tomorrow.