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Is It Safe To Eat At A Restaurant?


Shalayne Smith Needham: On May 1, restrictions on restaurant dine-in options were lifted. Now that restaurant dining areas are opening up again, visitors should expect things to be different. 

Dr. Brian Nummer, a professor in the USU Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Sciences Department joins us. 

Dr. Nummer, now that most restaurant dining rooms have reopened, what's your take, especially now that Utah has seen a resurgence of cases of the coronavirus, is it safe now to dine out?

Brian Nummer: So I think the overall answer is it is definitely safe to dine out. The important part is, being out in the public, is to remind everybody the virus is a person-to-person transmission and therefore being out or exposed to other individuals is the risk of the virus. So there's certainly a risk. I think with restaurants knowing that they're doing social distancing and keeping people separated as much as possible, requiring face masks, they are reducing the risk as low as they possibly can.

SSN: What are some changes customers can expect to see as they start to dine-in at restaurants?


BN: So I think the changes we're seeing are two aspects. Where there are changes related to protecting the workers and then there are other protections to help individuals reduce their risk from exposure to other individuals. 


The staff are required to wear face masks. The staff are encouraged to sanitize their hands as often as possible and they certainly can wash their hands, which is the preferred method. I personally went to a restaurant and I was given paper menus and when finished, they tore them up. 

You will likely not see anything on the table except for silverware. So things like condiments and salt and pepper shakers have been removed from the table. The payment process is streamlined to where there's the least amount of contact as possible. They prefer that people pay with a credit card because they don't have to handle cash and then give that cash to someone else. So the credit card is handled and handed back to the individual.

SSN: And finally, what advice do you have for us if we do decide to dine in at a restaurant? What can we do as patrons to help maintain safety protocols?

BN: So I think that's very important. While the facility or the restaurant, they are taking precautions, a diner should not always just simply entrust everything to someone else. When you go out or you're out in public with other individuals, keep an eye out for that social distancing. Bring your own hand sanitizer, bring your own sanitizer wipes. It never hurts to just assume the surfaces were not cleaned and to wipe them down yourself. 


For example, when you get your credit card back, go ahead and wipe that down with sanitizer. These types of things will definitely help if there was anything less than a good disinfection or anything related to that by the restaurant, and then you're protecting yourself 


SSN: And as we move through the dynamics of this pandemic and how it affects our dining experiences, we will revisit this topic. Thanks so much for talking with us.

BN: Oh, you're welcome.

Shalayne Smith Needham has worked at Utah Public Radio since 2000 as producer of Access Utah. She graduated from Utah State University in 1997 with a BA in Sociology, emphasis on Criminology. A Logan native, she grew up with an appreciation for the great outdoors and spends her free time photographing the Western landscape and its wildlife.