Seattle restaurants are resuming dining service – but not everyone is ready to return.
Two weeks ago, Eater Seattle conducted an audience survey on the reopening of dining rooms in the city (which is now 50 percent indoor), various security measures (including masks), the addition of outdoor seating areas and other related issues caused by Covid19 pandemic. More than 2,300 readers answered questions in the survey – thank you! One of the key findings is that less than half of those surveyed say they are comfortable in a restaurant right now, and almost a third of those surveyed say they will not go out to eat until there is a vaccine or feasible treatment for COVID there is -19.
This survey was conducted while Seattle was still in Stage 1.5 of Washington’s Safe Start reopening plan, when indoor food was 25 percent. That capacity has increased since then, as King County was cleared to move into phase two on Friday. The distribution of those who were willing to dine in a restaurant in phase 1.5 or phase two was around 48 percent. The rest of the respondents wanted to wait.
Meanwhile, only around 34 percent of respondents said they would feel safe in a restaurant, while the vast majority preferred outdoor seating if they would eat out at all. About 46 percent said they would prefer the tables to be even further apart than the state-mandated six feet of social distancing. A whopping 82.6 readers said they would feel more secure if Seattle added more outdoor seating areas in the city – a topic that has been discussed at length but hasn’t evolved.
Another hot topic with COVID-19 measures was face masks. There is currently a policy in King County that strongly encourages people to wear face covering in public as there is ample evidence that it can help slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, there is no law that requires retail customers to wear them – and almost 70 percent of those surveyed said that a mask must be required for restaurant guests, at least when people are not actively eating and drinking. Almost 90 percent said it would be perfectly fine for a restaurant to refuse to serve someone who isn’t wearing a mask.
“It seems like Seattle takes social distancing and masking more seriously than other regions,” said one respondent. “The number of people who don’t wear masks is worrying.”
Another said: “Seattle restaurateurs need to take the initiative and put the health and safety of guests first. Any diner who does not cooperate should be denied service, entry and discharge. “
Many readers also expressed a desire to know how restaurants are looking after their employees during the pandemic and what precautions they are taking to ensure the safety, health and pay of workers. One said, “knowing the restaurant has generous health insurance for restaurant staff” would help.
Regarding other COVID-19 policies, 80 percent of respondents said they voluntarily submit their personal information for contact tracing. Other measures that have proven popular have included restaurants with adequate ventilation and air circulation throughout the room, adequate hand sanitizer, and clear social distance markings in areas where guests are waiting.
No matter what, the general theme was caution.
“On-site testing and tracking of contacts has to be high up before I can eat in a restaurant or drink in a bar,” said one respondent. “I am fully prepared not to step foot in a public restaurant / bar to stay longer than 10 minutes for the rest of 2020.”
Below are some more breakdowns of the survey questions.
The first answer says, “The restaurant and its staff are not taking reasonable precautions.” The second answer says, “Be with other guests who are not part of your group.”