table manners

A Few Things We Won’t Miss in a Post-COVID Restaurant World

Illustration: Annelise Capossela

As much as we look forward to the return of full-fledged dining out at restaurants, there are some pre-pandemic customs we won’t miss should they not survive the new contactless reality.

1. Bar-Seat Wolves
Predatory seat coveters who want to expedite the move onto your bar-stool perch by anxiously hovering so close behind you that you can feel their hot breath on your neck. Especially pestiferous while eating something unwieldy like spaghetti carbonara or a torta Cubana.

2. Obsessive Napkin Folding
Rather than returning from the loo to discover your napkin meticulously contorted into a Bishop’s Cap, the Artichoke, or any number of other origami-like whimsies, prepare to find your crumpled-up serviette exactly where you tossed it.

3. The Town Crier of Specials
Should the ritual of the dramatic daily-specials recitation outlive the coronavirus, at least we now have masks to mitigate the effects of endless, spittle-spewing soliloquies whose content we never could remember anyway.

4. Topper Offers
Serial wine refillers who stop by every few seconds to top off your glass might finally be persuaded to entrust you with the bottle for the duration of the meal. And finally an end to that inspect-the-cork business.

5. Complimentary Bread Baskets
Even if the notion of the germy recycled bread basket was just an old Anthony Bourdain wives’ tale, the average pre-pandemic offering more often than not looked like hell and tasted like hardtack. It makes more sense now than ever for restaurants to treat bread as a menu item and charge for it accordingly. That practice only results in better bread and less waste.

6. Communal Seating
Hobnobbing cheek by jowl with perfect strangers — or at least ogling their food and eavesdropping on their conversation — was well and good. But, truth be told, rustic, twelve-foot communal tables were most enjoyable when you had a good chunk of one all to yourself.

7. Lemons in Water Glasses
No one’s saying they spread the coronavirus, but studies have shown that lemon slices plopped into beverages at restaurants may include potentially pathogenic bacteria. We’ve taken no polls, but we’re guessing the majority of the restaurant­going public is scurvy free and can live without the citrus slices.

8. Unruly Children
Previously unmonitored tots and toddlers who once had their run (or crawl) of the place will presumably now be kept on a figurative leash — or at least technologically occupied.

9. Three-Deeps at the Bar
Never as much fun as advertised — especially if you’re short and a flop at attracting the attention of bartenders, which cuts into your Aperol-spritz-guzzling time rather significantly.

10. Menus on Plates
We’ll miss them if they go away, but now that we all understand that ketchup splatters and grease stains are the least of a physical menu’s perils, we will likely never again encounter one sprawled nonchalantly across our napkin and dinner plate.

11. Wobbly Tables
According to the CDC (and also Larry David), sitting at a wobbly table in a restaurant is a risk factor for severe illness (kidding!). Still, if someone would finally fix this vexing problem, the world would be a better place.

12. Boisterous Birthday Parties
The shouts, the squeals, the hand-clapping, the forced joie de vivre, the bringing in of the outside cake, and the cascade of germs uncorked during the candle-blowout blast: No, the restaurant birthday celebration isn’t going away. But one can dream.

*A version of this article appears in the July 6, 2020, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

A Few Things We Won’t Miss in a Post-COVID Restaurant World