China is slowly beginning to return to normal life as its cases of the novel coronavirus continue to shrink after its battle with the illness began in December 2019. However, “normal” remains subjective in the time of the pandemic, and many experts are looking to China’s behavior — specifically in restaurants — to see what countries like the United States will do once the lockdowns are lifted.
According to Business Insider, there have been some marked differences in how people eat in restaurants now versus before the pandemic, with some small changes and others more drastic.
Many restaurants in China have new capacity limits — a rule that experts have noted is already taking place in the United States. For example, Hong Kong-based restaurants have been legally ordered to ensure that capacity remains below 50 percent. In addition, groups of people are limited to four or fewer.
If restaurants do not abide by the rules, the owners risk being fined over $6,000 or even potentially facing jail time, to the tune of six months.
In addition, partitions have been erected between tables, furniture is arranged to fit all social distancing policies, and all patrons and servers are asked to wear face masks unless eating or drinking.
Other changes are more focused on patrons than the restaurant facilities themselves. For example, many restaurants in Hong Kong are now requiring temperature checks for any individual entering the premises. Temperature checks are also being used in Shanghai.
Though a fever is a sign of many ailments, it is one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19.
Patrons will also be asked if they participate in contact tracing software, with many restaurants using apps that will show if the owner has been in contact with anyone who recently received a positive diagnosis.
Last but not least, one of the biggest differences in dining patterns in China is that now many customers are expected to sign contracts that pledge they do not have the virus and have not knowingly recently interacted with someone with the virus.
“If guests decline to complete the form do not be afraid to turn them away,” one company restaurant wrote, adding that they turned away more than 50 people in one night.
“They may be upset in the moment, but it is absolutely the right thing to do to protect your team and your guests. It feels uncomfortable because we are in the business of hospitality but we have to understand the reality of the new world we exist in,” the statement finished.
It remains to be seen whether such changes will also take hold in the U.S. as many states begin their re-opening process. Some social distancing practices have been noted, such as when fans lined up outside of an Atlanta mall earlier today to purchase newly released Air Jordan sneakers.