We have been isolated and forced to cook at home for what seems a long time. The simple, previously-taken-for-granted, social experience of eating out is soon to be revolutionized. The new restaurateur-customer connection will depend upon both staff and customers feeling safe.

We used to eat out for so many reasons. The sharing of food with friends and family. Special occasions. Business meetings. The allure of testing the latest trends. Appreciating the suggestion of a sommelier. Meeting the chef. Finding one’s muse. The clatter of the kitchen, the banter and laughter of those around us. And the opportunity to enjoy a meal without preparing it or cleaning up after.

We all need to play our part in the upcoming out-of-isolation culinary revolution. Being a customer is the easier role in the relationship.

Restaurant owners and managers, on the other hand, will have to run their operations tightly. Alongside the ability to adapt and be flexible, on a daily basis, they will need to keep rent, payroll, utilities, and food costs within acceptable percentages of their sales. If they do not, they will not survive. They will need to create new menus with fewer, more versatile ingredients and easier preparation. Menu prices will go up to cover rising costs, PPE, and reduced sales due to loss of seating. Restaurants will require simple, safe methods to serve house specials to half-filled rooms, to sidewalks, parking lots, parks, or wherever a corner of space is available. When weather permits, we might be encouraged to reserve and arrive with lawn chairs. Meal delivery and pick up that we are enjoying now will remain crucial to culinary cash flow. In many cases, restaurants will operate more like catering companies.

Restaurants need us and we need them. As we perform our part in the relationship, trail blazing entrepreneurs will bring their individual personalities and styles to the plate.

When a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is available, we will happily adapt again.