Many local and state governments are lifting stay-at-home orders and allowing restaurants to reopen their dine-in services. While diners can now go out to grab a bite, there are a number of unanswered questions when it comes to mask etiquette at restaurants. In this comprehensive guide, we provide you with details on the best practices for wearing face masks at foodservice establishments to ensure everyone’s safety.

Wear A Mask When Entering The Restaurant

Face masks have become the new normal in the food industry because they help prevent respiratory droplets from making contact with customers, staff members, and meals. Having a face mask on when walking into a restaurant shows everyone that you’re taking extra precautions to keep yourself and others safe.

In many areas, local officials have also implemented regulations that require individuals who are working or dining at a foodservice establishment to wear a face mask. If customers or employees don’t have a mask on when entering a restaurant, they will likely be asked to put one on or leave.

Offer Customers A Mask

While masks may be mandatory to wear at your foodservice establishment, what will you do if someone walks into your business without one? Rather than asking them to leave your restaurant, inform them about the face mask rules in place and offer them a mask. It will allow them to dine at your establishment while following your restaurant’s regulations. Having a stash of masks available for customers helps prevent you from losing potential customers.

Provide A Safe Place To Store Masks

When orders arrive at your customers’ tables, they will need to remove their masks in order to enjoy their meals. Many guests will wear their mask under their chin, place it on the table, or use a face mask lanyard that allows the mask to hang from their neck. While using any of these methods is convenient, they aren't sanitary.

When a mask isn’t properly stored, the inside of the mask is exposed to respiratory droplets which increases the chances of masks getting contaminated. To protect your guests’ masks while they enjoy food, many businesses are providing guests with mask bags.

What Is A Mask Bag?

Mask bags are typically made from paper or plastic and provide individuals with a hygienic way to store their masks. They are built to prevent the inside of face masks from getting exposed to air droplets that are breathed out by others dining at a foodservice establishment. Many face mask bags feature a breathable design that allows the moisture from the inside of masks to dry while customers enjoy their food or drinks.

Why Should Restaurants Provide Customers With Mask Bags?

Face mask bags provide you with a simple way to keep your business clean. They prevent germs from the inside of your customers’ masks from making contact with tables, chairs, dinnerware, and other frequently touched surfaces. Providing patrons with face mask bags is a thoughtful gesture that will make them feel safe at your operation. It also enhances your guests’ dine-in experience and the perception of your restaurant which helps increase your customer loyal base.

Furthermore, offering customers plastic or paper mask bags shows your staff that you’re providing them with a sanitary work environment. They will feel more comfortable wiping down surfaces or serving guests knowing that customers’ masks haven’t been in contact with high-touch areas.

How Should Restaurants Supply Customers With Mask Bags?

Many foodservice establishments may not be sure of how or when to provide customers with mask bags because they want to limit the contact between servers and patrons. However, there are numerous ways you can supply your guests with bags for their masks while guaranteeing everyone's safety:

  • Hand patrons a mask bag when they are seated
  • Set mask bags on tables before seating guests
  • Provide guests with mask bags when their meals or beverages are served
  • Create a mask bag station near the entrance so customers can grab their own bag

When Should Diners Put Their Masks Back On?

Diners will take their masks off when their food arrives so they can comfortably eat, but when will it be appropriate for them to put their masks back on? Patrons may ask themselves, “should I put my mask on between bites?” and “can I leave my mask off until I leave the restaurant?” because they are unaware of the unwritten rules when it comes to mask etiquette at restaurants.

It’s not recommended for diners to put their mask on and take it off between bites. While it sounds like the polite thing to do, they’re actually increasing the risk of contaminating their masks. Your guests’ hands get dirty while dining and consistently handling a mask spreads the germs from their hands to their mouths. It’s best for diners to keep masks safely stored in a mask bag while eating.

If diners need to use the restroom while eating, they should sanitize their hands, wipe their faces clean, and put their masks back on. They should also do the same when they finish their meals because servers will need to return to customers’ tables to clear their plates and give them their check.

Ensure Masks Are Being Worn Properly

Reusable and single-use face masks are only effective to help slow the spread of COVID-19 when worn correctly. Whether you’re walking into a restaurant or you’ve just finished eating, it’s important to properly put your mask on to protect yourself and others.

When your face mask is on, it should completely cover your nose and mouth. The mask should also fit snugly against the sides of your face and be secure under your chin. If the mask feels too tight or loose, you can fix the fit of your mask by adjusting the straps that go around your ears.

Always Wear A Mask When Talking To Others

When speaking to bartenders, servers, and others at a foodservice establishment, it’s essential to have your face mask on. You’re likely less than 6 feet away from someone when speaking to them and a mask helps protect you from spreading respiratory droplets that are forced into the air during a conversation.

It may be challenging at times to have a conversation with someone when you are both wearing masks. However, instead of taking your masks off, consider using hand gestures. You can simply say hello to someone by waving your hand or let servers know that everything is good by giving them a thumbs up. If you’re trying to ask someone a question where using hand gestures may be challenging, you can also speak slower and louder.

Safely Remove Your Mask Before Enjoying Meals

When your food has arrived at the table, you should carefully remove your mask to prevent damaging the mask or contaminating your hands. Although no one but yourself uses the mask, your mask is filled with droplets from when you talk, cough, or sneeze while wearing it. When removing your face mask, simply follow these steps to prevent the spread of germs:

  1. Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer
  2. Open the face mask bag
  3. Hold both of the ear loops and gently remove the mask
  4. Without touching the front of your mask, store the mask in the bag
  5. Close the mask bag
  6. Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer

Sanitize Your Hands Before & After Handling Masks

Masks are key when it comes to helping you stay protected from COVID-19. However, good hand hygiene also helps prevent the spread of germs. You can easily come into contact with the virus if your hands aren’t clean because you’re frequently making contact with your mask and high-touch surface areas.

To help keep yourself and others around you safe, simply wash your hands before and after making contact with your face mask. You can wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer to disinfect your hands. The inside and outside of your mask are constantly exposed to air particles and sanitizing your hands helps prevent you from touching your food with contaminated hands.

Post Signs Of Your Face Mask Guidelines

The truth is that not all of your customers are aware of mask-wearing etiquette at foodservice establishments. To inform them of the face mask rules your business has in place, you can post signs throughout your restaurant. When creating signs, be sure that they clearly state your face mask regulations and are easy to read.

Posting signs of mask guidelines also makes guests feel comfortable dining at your business. Many individuals are worried that restaurants aren’t enforcing strict face mask regulations to keep them safe. By displaying signs, guests will immediately notice that their concerns are your main priority which allows your business to earn their trust and build a connection with them.

Keep Everyone Safe

Most customers get worried when going out to eat because they are unaware of the unwritten rules of mask etiquette at restaurants. However, you can easily help relieve their stress and make them feel comfortable by implementing face mask guidelines and posting them throughout your restaurant. You can also hand out a mask bag to each customer to provide them with a sanitary way to store their masks while dining. By enforcing our restaurant face mask rules into your business, you can easily build a relationship with your customers and increase your customer loyalty.