Last week, we sent out a little bitty baby survey trying to gauge how you, the people of Earth (and more specifically, Santa Fe) felt about dining out in a post-pandemic (or still-pandemic) world, and all y’all did not disappoint. Real quick, let’s take one more look at the question we asked:
- Have your delivery/takeout habits changed over the last few months?
- Have you been making a conscious effort to support restaurants you want to see survive the lockdown?
- Would you say you're prepared to start dining in-person again—as in, if restaurants provide options for diners to visit, will you go right away, or will you wait?
- By what scale do you consider a restaurant to be clean and/or responsible enough to warrant your patronizing it in-person?
- If you do not plan on visiting restaurants, will you continue to order takeout and/or delivery?
We asked, you answered. In over 125 emails which, we think, is some kinda Fork record. So while we're busy chanting "Fork! Fork! Fork!" in our minds, let's break down some of the data, shall we?
When we're talkin' takeout habits, a large number of readers told us they hadn't been big on takeout before the shelter-in-place order, but that their habits have totally changed. For example, reader Michelle C says that while her family hadn't traditionally been takeout people, they started ordering two or three times a week, mainly from restaurants close to their home. Similarly, Winky W says they upped their takeout frequency, as did Marcy H, who writes "My daughter returned from college in March to settle in with mom and wait this out. We started Takeout Tuesdays as soon as she arrived and have not missed one, nor have we eaten from the same restaurant twice."
When it comes to making an effort to support restaurants, reader Debb says "It's a small thing, but I'm in the drive-thru at Café Fina for a latté four or five days a week. The latté is $4.55. The tip is what's left from a $10." That's a healthy tip and a great way to support a nearby haunt. Ellen Z wins honesty points by saying "I have not done that. I feel a little bad about that fact but, to be honest, I have been focusing on eating the food I have in my house/freezer and trying to stop the tremendous amount of food waste I had been prone to in the past." No shame in trying to reduce one's footprint, Ellen, and eating at home is great! Kim D and Dan M say that they've been supporting by upping their game to at least once a week, which was rare for them before.
Being prepared to dine out might be the biggest one, because we can read think pieces and chef opinions all day, they won't matter when compared to the feelings of their potential customers. A large number of readers have said that no, they're not ready to be out there with people again, even with social distancing in place. Reader BH G, for example, tells us that they'll wait a little while longer before visiting their favorite places, while Loren A says they might be ready, but "only in restaurants where we can see kitchen staff to make sure they are keeping their masks on." Reader Gaby R. tells us that they're not quite ready, adding "there are safer trees to sit under elsewhere," and SkyyeKing (which we pray is a real name) says, "I really miss dining in person, but I'm going to wait to see how the COVID-19 numbers play out... I won't be dining out anytime soon."
If cleanliness is next to godliness as Billy Corgan once said (which he did way before anyone else in 1996, and, yes, that's when that phrase was coined...haha, jay kay, don't be all mad), how clean a restaurant is prepared to get is a big deal to all y'all. Like, as in all of you. Now, we've worked in restaurants and can tell you that not all are created equal and some have cleaner kitchens than others, but for our readers, sticking to the places they know to be clean as hell is a priority. Just ask Carol H, who points to the state-approved cleaning measures and protocol for the pandemic. Theresita M says she's unsure what standard of clean she'd accept right now, while Jill F says that she understands it's a hard thing to police, but that while visiting the patio at Joe's Diner the other night, she observed what a good job they were doing keeping things sanitized. "We'll just have to trust and observe," she writes. Vicki H writes that it's about observation, too, saying that she mostly trusts her "prior experiences" with restaurants. "If we go for takeout and see proper precautions not in place, we won't go back." Lindsay W makes kind of good point, writing that "I think restaurants are generally clean...it's the other people who worry me." Word to that.
OK, so what about going back versus takeout? Will our readers be in-person-ing it up more, or will they enter into some kind of combo of things? Jenny B tells us that she and her people are prepared to try and order more takeout from favorite restaurants, while Erin C says she's not only ordering more, she's gonna start visiting her favorite places more often—safely, of course. Kris and Mat tell us that they "for sure" are gonna keep the deliveries and takeout going, and Lynn C says that yes, her fam has plans to eat out more, but they're also making that effort to get to-go food more often. Let's give a million high-fives to Peggy MG, who says that she's going to try and avoid the delivery services, but that if she absolutely must, she's willing to go the extra mile for the local ones (maybe it's a buck or two more, but it just makes you feel better, right?), and Sarah P says her habits won't change so long as she can still access places that are known for proper takeout to begin with, such as Bumblebee's Baja Grill and Shake Foundation.
As for everything else and the many, MANY answers we didn't have time to incorporate, we've deduced that almost everyone is nervous about a second wave of COVID-19 rolling through town once we're all dining out with reckless abandon. Almost everyone who responded said something about other diners (particularly people from out of state about whom we have no idea) being their main source of stress. Can we positively shame folks into good mask habits? Our readers say yes, we can.
Others say they're still bumming on how limited their options are due to special needs, that they want a clear view of the kitchen if possible and that they want to not feel like jerks if they ask employees about new provisions put in place. Usually we're kind of a "leave the workers alone!" type Fork, but we'll go on record as saying we don't think it would be a bad idea for people to ask questions. Just understand these workers are going to be stressed out, and that if the idea of not knowing every single thing happening behind the scenes is too much, well, maybe it's just not time to eat out yet.
Some other data included how people feel bad over being shamed into eating out when money is so tight (we get that FOR SURE), that they wish restaurants would update their websites and/or social media with information about how they're taking things seriously—including practical steps they've adopted—and how it would be great to dine out, but even better when it'll be with people they've been missing since the pandemic began. In other words, some people are plain sick of seeing their fams, and we get that, too, with respect to Mother Fork and The Fork Sr.
One thing's for sure, though. Well, two things:
1. This is probably the longest Fork of all time, and we thank you for bearing with us, and for your thoughtful answers and the time you took to provide them.
2. If we had to boil this down into the most easily expressible information possible, it would look like this:
HabitsYes, people are doing takeout more. A lot more. No, you shouldn't make people with money issues feel bad about not doing so. Most people are wary about jumping back into a dining situation. In fact, it's almost all of you. Yes, this has been eye-opening for a lot of reasons.
PlacesWe started seeing some patterns with places where y'all like to go, and the top 3 most mentioned places are (in no particular order): Arroyo Vino, Shake Foundation and Izanami. We admit, we're surprised it's not entirely more New Mexican in nature (chile is THE comfort food at Chez Fork where Mrs. Fork and the Fork-Cat Five live). We're also surprised that two of those are what we wouldn't call cheap, per se. Like, no offense, but they're not kicking out 5 buck burgers, y'know (and we get why they cost what they do).
YahoosAs Rick A puts it, there are still a lot of yahoos running around out there, and that's a major concern for you. Us, too.
HealthMasks, masks, masks. Y'all wanna see masks and gloves. When it comes to gloves, you wanna see them changed often, too. You also want to see servers washing hands (we don't know how you'd do that without following them around, but we can promise you the servers we know take it seriously) and you want to see hand sanitizer at a front desk. You want a firm hand from staff about breaking up groups that start to gather, and you want to know the restaurants you visit are taking staff temperatures. That's ALLLLLLL understandable to us. Especially since a number of readers told us they're older, they live alone, they're not messing around.
Something to Think OnWe're going to post a link riiiiiiiiiiigggggggghhhhhhhhht here. It'll take you to a PDF of the government guidelines for what businesses are supposed to do, restaurants included. They're going to evolve. Things won't be the same. And that's OK. All we know is that we have the best damn readers anywhere, and we don't care if it's redundant—we thank you for existing.
Oh, and don't forget that Black Lives Matter. We mean that sincerely, and please don't send us any all lives matter stuff. We're not here for it. If you'd like to learn more, like we're trying to do, visit the official site here.
This one’s for you, fans who actually read everything so far. Now what’re you gonna do, reader who thought we didn’t know what’s up with the Partridge Family? Pshshshshst. We’ve been crushing on Shirley Jones since the effing Music Man!
Usually we'd get into some local stuff here, but that last bit almost bested us and we're TIRED (with a capital T which rhymes with P which is a letter in SHUT UP!) We'll get back to the local goings-on next week.
-It wouldn’t be a Fork without us sending you toward eater.com (they should pay us, honestly), but it’s suuuuuuuch a good site. We were particularly interested in a new piece by Esther Tseng about how undocumented workers are vital to the restaurant industry—but they might be hit hard and lose too much.
-Bon Appetit, meanwhile, says that food has always been political—and editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport tells us what that means while the nation faces unrest.
-An honest-to-goodness delivery driver reached out to us to share something she wrote about why y'all should think twice before ordering delivery. And she is/was/will be a driver? The future is unclear, but she was on the frontlines and had thoughts about why we need to think about it deeper.
In the print edition of SFR, local food-slash-restaurant fan Nick Peña gives us his perspective as owner of Food Tour New Mexico, a local company that does—get this—food tours.____________________________________________________________A Totally Scientific Breakdown of The Fork’s Correspondence
Number of Letters Received128*Whooooooooo!!!!
Most Helpful Tip of the Week Our mom told us something about beans. We weren't listening. *We do like beans, though.
Actually Helpful TipSo much stuff from so many people. Again, we thank you!*But we want 'em!____________________________________________________Chuffed and yours,The Fork
P.S. This one’s for everyone whose responses we couldn’t include. Love y’all. Mean it.