As COVID-19 numbers increase throughout the state, restaurant owners are learning that staff or customers or both have potentially brought the coronavirus inside their newly reopened dining rooms. The responsible ones are choosing to close for deep cleaning and full-staff testing. Some, according to anonymous and unverified reports, choose to continue with business as usual.
Among those that have reclosed, most have indicated that when they are cleared to reopen, they will go back to offering only takeout and delivery. They seem to think it was too soon to start offering on-premises dining.
I’m staying with takeout, for the more part, too. So let’s go over some things to consider when ordering takeout or delivery.
- It’s nice to go online and see a restaurant offering its full menu for takeout. But don’t be surprised to learn that what is actually on hand is quite limited. Restaurants are probably working with a streamlined kitchen crew to help them keep a distance from each other, and supplies might be limited, so the smarter chefs are focusing on the foods they can make efficiently and well.
- And even if the full menu is available, think twice before you order. Hot food placed in closed containers is going to create steam, so be aware of this if you order breaded items or anything else that should not turn soggy. Have the sauteed calamari instead of the breaded and fried. If you’re ordering food in advance to eat later or expect that it will have cooled before you can get it home, ask the chef for reheating advice.
- You wouldn’t believe how many times in the past few months I’ve visited a restaurant’s website with a plan to place an order and find the printed menu has not prices. No one wants to order without knowing the cost. If a restaurant doesn’t have prices on its takeout online menu, I simply move on.
- The experience should be as contactless as possible. Verify when you place your order that the restaurant has curbside pickup. Tell the person who takes the order that you want to add a gratuity and pay for the order over the phone. Too many times I’ve shown up and a staff member comes out with a credit slip to sign. I say, through a cracked window, that I’ve already authorized to purchase.
- Before you end the order, as if there are any specific Instructions on what to do when you arrive at the restaurant. For example, if it’s curbside pickup, there may be a specific space you should pull into when you arrive, and you may be asked to call when you’re outside and tell them what kind of car you’re in. Total Wine has dedicated parking spaces, each with a number. People arriving for pickup pull into a spot and text the space number to the restaurant inside. Very easy.
- I always ask that the oder be placed in my trunk. Not only does this eliminate a potential contact inside the car, it also keeps my food order out the reach of my labradoodle, who is usually riding along in the back seat for the pickup. Restaurateurs: Bag the orders so that they won't tip over in the customer's trunk. On a couple of occasions when I wasn’t able to add a gratuity when I paid for the order, I left a cash tip in the trunk and told the person who brought the food out to leave the food and take the money.
- I’ve stopped being obsessed with wiping down food containers. I assume the food has been packaged under the strictest sanitation guidelines. Instead of wiping down the takeout boxes, I instead replate the food onto my own dishes, then discard the takeout containers and wash my hands thoroughly.
- Many restaurants have added online ordering systems and most of them are intuitive and user friendly. However, I came across one recently where every time I placed something in my “cart,” I was prompted to move to checkout rather than given an option to continue “shopping.”
And a note about delivery services. Most restaurants offering delivery are using third-party gig apps, such as UberEats, GrubHub, DoorDash and others. Some occasionally offer free delivery, but that doesn’t mean the restaurant isn’t paying dearly. Most of these services will take up to 30 percent of the cost of the order. That’s a big chunk of potential profits, but most restaurants see it as a necessary evil to stay in business.
So don’t be surprised that the online prices are a bit higher than the prices on the dine-in menu. The restaurants are trying to offset the cost of the delivery services. And I support them for