The Results of Our Dining Out Survey

Last week we started to wonder about how people’s habits are changing when it comes to dining out at this particular point in the pandemic. Call it curiosity. Call it us loving people who work in the industry. Just don’t call it a comeback. Anyway, y’all delivered big time with sooooo many responses, and we’re gonna pop some of those in this week’s edition so we can all try to get on the same page. As always, tip like you’re rich and don’t give service workers a hard time—the job is ROUGH.

Did you lean into takeout and/or delivery during the pandemic, or did you eat out whenever possible?

“At first, when they had the whole, ‘COVID spreads on surfaces!’ thing, I avoided the hell outta getting food from anywhere else, but when that hoopla finally died down, I started getting takeout regularly—and only from places that offered curbside reliably. None of that ‘we can do curbside if we’re not too busy… maybe’ nonsense. Those people were off my list. I would have done delivery, but no one delivers to my house.”

Fork Fanatic (TM) Hilary B. answered thusly. We remember those days of surface scares, too. But soon we were ordering takeout pretty much all the time and thinking to ourselves about how we’re American heroes.

“Yes, we did carry-out, but we did not dine out until we were two weeks past our second shots. We never really did much carry-out before the pandemic, but we did it 1-2 times a week during pandemic.”

Now that’s being responsible, Lisa F.! And the whole “we upped the carry-out” thing is a prevailing theme of this survey. A lot of people seem to have found things they never would have otherwise, if we can try to put a tiny little silver lining moment into the situation.

Did your tipping habits change? In other words, did you access your humanity and part with an extra couple bucks so as to help out the people who had to keep working in public service jobs during the insanity?

“Yes! I’m already a 20-25% tipper—having worked in restaurants back in the day—but I’m easily at 25-30% these days!”

If you’re wondering, Erin C. here has the right idea. We know it was hard for people who lost their jobs, no question, but there’s a whole other kind of hardness to showing up to work when people are dying, and you have one of those volume business kind of jobs.

“We tipped $10 on every takeout order no matter how big or small.”

We like Brian R.’s style, though we do wonder what “big” means in this context. We’re assuming Brian and Brian’s people weren’t tipping $10 on $300 or anything (we know you weren’t, Brian, but we’re mentioning this to the class so they don’t do what you surely didn’t.)

“While we’ve always tipped, we definitely stepped up and increased the amount to help out people who were working.”

This thought from reader Karyl Y. should be everyone’s mantra forever.

Now that we apparently don’t have to mask up in public spaces like we used to, will you change your mask habits? Do you plan on getting into it with workers who ask you to mask up as if it’s the worst civil rights violation of our lifetimes? (it’s not)

“Still wearing a mask, so no. The mask has become a bit of a security blanket, and I’m still a bit nervous about what’s yet to come.”

Another great point from Karyl Y. It’s kind of like that weird first day of spring or summer where you stop wearing a hoodie or coat or anything. You feel off. The difference with COVID-19, though, is that there’s the whole lots-of-death component. Ask yourselves—if a restaurant’s staff says they’re more comfortable with people masking while they’re not eating, is that really such a big deal? Nope.

“No. Still masking despite full vaccination. It’s not anything even close to a civil rights violation. It’s a public health issue.”

Succinct. Empathetic. Smart. Way to answer, C and L [last name omitted]!

“There are enough anti-vaxxers whom I don’t trust to be truthful about their vaccination status. I want to continue to promote masking practices by demonstrating easy compliance with mask wearing.”

Dylan O. gets it. And it’s sadly true about the anti-vaxx set. Either way, just look at the shockingly low cases of the flu out there this year. That whole reduction thing is about washed hands and masked faces.

“Nope. Too many woo-woo people lying about vaccination and I have a toddler. I plan on telling anyone who plans to talk to me or be around me to put a mask on or C-ya. Also our household is all educators; no need getting youngins sick. A HUGE part of these decisions are economic-based, not ‘for the people’ based. Yes, money is nice, but no need to not take it a little slower and see how that mean COVID plays out. "

Gaby R. is doing it for the kids. Is doing it for the kids so hard? Jeeze, no.

“Wearing a mask is not problem! Why wouldn’t I want to protect myself and others? I will support workers who are being harassed by anti-maskers.”

We like what Joyce H. is laying down. If you see someone berating somebody who’s just trying to do their job, you should support the service worker. We all should! If not, may you end up in one of those Karens Gone Wild compilations on YouTube.

“In the words of my husband, ‘I can’t believe I’ve been breathing other people’s breath for so long.’”

Boy, you said it, Sue B. There’s a part of us that’s really weirded out at how close our mouths were to other people’s mouths before all this. Dang.

Have you been avoiding restaurants, and do you think you’ll return to places you love and/or trust?

“Nice weather and outdoor patios at places we trust will slowly bring us back. Not ready to eat inside anywhere yet.”

Vicki H. speaks for a pretty large contingent of potential diners, we think. Some people have compromised immune systems. Some people are still nervous. Heck, some people lost their people and aren’t prepared to forget that because of fries.

“I’ve been happily going to restaurants lately.”

On the other side of the coin, diners like Dan G. are ready to get back to it.

Since being vaccinated I have ventured out to dine in. Mostly during non-peak hours and outside seating when possible. I can’t handle all the ‘to-go’ plastic and trash I accumulated this past year anymore.”

Ah! Another good point. Many restaurants already try hard to use sustainable materials, but even so—we made a lot of trash this last year.

“We hadn’t been out to eat a restaurant in a year and a month. After our second shot we ventured out...we felt nervous, but ended up enjoying ourselves. We now go out to a select few restaurants we trust once a week.”

One good thing about a small town, Anne C. here has pointed out, is that you can develop a rapport with restaurants and build up trust.

Anything else you’d like to add?

“THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE WORKED AT GROCERY STORES, FAST FOOD JOINTS, RETAIL STORES ARE REAL HEROES. THEY HAVE PUT IN LONG HOURS IN SCARY SITUATIONS AND HAVE HAD TO DEAL WITH JOHN Q PUBLIC WHO IS OFTEN RUDE.”

Reader Meredith S. very kindly put her answers in all caps so we could easily differentiate them from the rest of the email text, but we also like to think she was screaming this at us. Either way, she’s not wrong. When the pandemic started, people banged pots and thanked grocery workers and donated to funds for foodservice folks. Now they’re more like, “Excuse me, my turkey sandwich is more important than your grandma.”

“I guess this is somewhat outdated with the new rules, but, don’t ask the waitstaff if they are OK with you not wearing a mask—what are they supposed to say?!?! Decide what you are comfortable with and roll with it, but don’t put people who are already going out of their way to make your life easier by feeding you any harder.”

Elege H. makes a solid point about human nature here. How often do we ask questions of people when we know they’ll have to give an answer that has little to do with their real feelings? Too often.

OK, wow—and we got MANY more emails as well, which we can synthesize into a few pieces of cool info about our Fork Frenz (TM):

-Y’all are taking masks very seriously.

-Y’all are taking foodservice workers’ health very seriously.

-Y’all have relationships with the restaurant world that run deep.

-Y’all are great tippers.

Thanks to everyone for taking part. Honestly? We feel better. Literally everyone spoke about what we owe each other as people, how tipping huge is the thing to do and how you’re feeling better than you have in a long time. In summation? We appreciate everyone’s efforts, and honestly? We could keep going for a loooooooooong time. We think this is a good place to stop, but perhaps we’ll include a few more responses next week.

Just as a palate cleanser...

Also

-Three cheers to Second Street Brewery’s Mariah Cameron Scee who was recently recognized by the Craft Beer Marketing Awards for her sweet-as-eff design work with/for the brewery. According to the news release, “The winning design was a numbered edition of 200 block printed packages. Each was printed from a hand carved block with oil based ink, and contained 2 cans of barleywine.” If you wanna know more, you can check Scee’s other work at mariahscee.com.

-Readers tell us stalwart New Mexican joint Tortilla Flats was mysteriously closed for a moment there, but has since returned to service. We don’t know what’s up, but if anyone knows anything, let us know.

-Send us your tips! Things you saw! Spy for us, basically, is what we’re saying.

More Tidbits

-As always, Eater-dot-com delivers, this time with a thoughtful piece by writer Brittany Hutson about how the reinvigorated Black Lives Matter movement put an emphasis on supporting Black-owned restaurants, businesses, etc., but how long-term tangible support is still not going great.

-Xi’an Famous Foods CEO Jason Wang features in a good one over at Huffpost-dot-com about how mental health impacts the spate of modern-day Asian hate.

-One word: Oreos. Is that a word? Probably. Anyway, in a piece for Bon Appétit-dot-com, writer Debi Lewis digs into how the famous sammie cookie (or Sammie C if you will, AND YOU WILL) helped her family heal (and why they’re crazy-tasty).

-Japanese Breakfast musician Michelle Zauner has a new book (Crying in H Mart) and a lot to say about food, her mother, shopping in grocery stores and more. Homegirl loves the supermarket is what we hear.

-Medical device manufacturer COOK Medical is building a grocery store in Indianapolis, Indiana. Yup—you read that right. Seems the area has been lacking in access to food, so COOK is attaching one to its new plant in the area. We won’t get into a whole Tennessee Ernie Ford thing about company stores, but we will say we’re cautiously OK with a company giving its employees something they need.

-Word on the street is that organic foods sold somewhere in the neighborhood of $56 billion in 2020. Maybe because we were all at home and can only eat so many Goldfish? According to industry site Food Dive-dot-com, that’s a good thing, though 2021 may be different due to supply, demand and also that thing where you miss Oreos.

Finally

In the print edition of SFR, get down to Marcy Street for not one but two new food/drink options.


A Totally Scientific Breakdown of The Fork’s Correspondence

Number of Letters Received

89

*We should do surveys more often.

Most Helpful Tip of the Week (a barely edited letter from a reader)

“You kidding me right now?”

*We are not.

Actually Helpful Tip(s)

The big one you give to a foodservice worker.

-That’s from us to you.

____________________________________________________

We did it!

The Fork