Pennsylvania entered the yellow phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening plan June 5. One of the changes allowed in the yellow phase is the allowance of outdoor dining at restaurants.
This has opened the door for Pennsylvania residents to get out of the house, sit at their favorite eatery and be served food and drink for the first time since mid-March. And, boy, did people take advantage of the opportunity.
I work as a server and bartender at a popular restaurant in Bethlehem. We had 12 tables, with seating for more than 40 people at once, spaced out along our front sidewalk.
Our tables were filled for the majority of that first weekend with reservations, forcing us to turn away anyone without the foresight to call ahead of time.
Serving tables under the new guidelines and restrictions came with a steep learning curve.
We operated with limited staff, both back in the kitchen and out front. We wore masks and gloves for the entirety of our shifts, making sure to regularly change the gloves to prevent cross-contamination.
Our procedures not only changed day to day but often hour by hour. We had one policy change three times in the course of 10 minutes, prompting us to be more flexible and adaptable.
Despite all the service changes and new regulations, the weekend seemed to be a success. In my experience, most people were just happy to be out.
There were mistakes with food orders, drinks took longer than usual, and many food or drink options were unavailable.
Almost every mistake was met not only with understanding, but support from our patrons.
No matter what I was apologizing for, the large majority of diners assured me they were not concerned and were simply happy to be out.
Of course, there will always be one or two people who complain, but, thankfully, they were in the minority of the diners at my establishment.
This patience and understanding was a refreshing surprise. Having worked in the food industry for 13 years, I’ve grown a bit cynical, but I was happy and thankful to be proven wrong.
We were continued to be met with smiles and support from most people the second weekend. However, for some, the patience had run out, and they simply could not understand why life was suddenly not “back to normal.”
Many local eateries continue to serve guests in their outdoor dining areas. Next time you’re feeling peckish, consider going to Catty Corner Neighborhood Pub & Pie and Tony’s Top Cat in Catasauqua, Stefano’s Sicilian Grille in East Allen Township, The Gin Mill & Grille in Northampton, Red Wolf Bar & Grille in Bath or Maza Middle Eastern Cuisine or Keystone Pub in Whitehall, just to name a few.
Pro tip: Many restaurants are not accepting walk-ins and require a reservation due to limited space, so make sure you call ahead. It will save both you and the restaurant staff some frustration.
Please remember to continue sharing kindness with your service staff when you eat out. Every time we approach a table, we’re wondering in the backs of our minds if this is where we’re going to get sick, especially since we are seeing more than a hundred people a night.
I found myself hesitating to clear an empty plate or grab someone’s credit card.
So please, be kind. We’re doing the best we can with constantly changing information, restrictive guidelines and a little bit of fear.
Plus, it gets really hot under those masks out in the sun.