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Opinion: An ode to restaurants

On a breezy day of November 15th, 2020, I visited a local ramen restaurant to pick-up my order for lunch. Guests were coming in and out constantly, but the atmosphere was somewhat different: Through the servers’ eyes, I could feel a hint of sadness. While waiting for my order to come, I talked to a waitress to find out more about this unusual atmosphere in the restaurant. Everything seemed normal, so why did the feelings tell the opposite? Bringing the bags back to my car, drizzle dampened my coat. 

In the following uneventful evening, I dragged myself to the kitchen after hours of studying to see a puzzling expression on my Auntie’s face as she scrolled through her phone. She looked up at me, and let out a small sigh. “Governor Inslee just announced a state-wide restriction for four weeks, so I guess it’s time again”. It is only four weeks long, but four weeks in quarantine feels like an eternity. 

We all know how this goes: less indoor gatherings, services closing down, and restaurants only open for take-out. Round two has started, but this time we are well-prepared for it. Still, I wonder: Could restaurants hold on through this second round?

Back in March when we first went into quarantine, we saw many places that we loved close down, especially restaurants. To a lot of us, these spaces contained many of our happy and beloved memories, and it is such a tragedy that these places are permanently closed due to the pandemic. However, we will never forget those memories of the “good old days”.

Fast forwarding to what is happening right now, it makes me wonder: How are the restaurants holding up in this second round of restrictions?

A few days ago, I had a conversation with my friends about their experiences when they went out for lunch after the restrictions came into effect. They told me how all the chairs and tables were gone, but there was still a moderate amount of people at the restaurant. Despite not expecting that many people, they only had to wait for a short while before getting their food. Overall, a small amount of inconvenience does not make a huge difference to the dining experience during the quarantine. So what made us adapt to the changes so quickly this time?

As I have mentioned earlier, contrary to the first round, we are better prepared for the second round of quarantine. All the procedures and safety measurements are well-known to both the restaurants and customers, so it is not something that would confuse anyone. Other additional methods such as ordering online or for pickup are working very well for us right now. Last but not least, the sense of familiarity that we got from being in this situation before helped us a lot to adapt to the changes.

But there are things that we are not prepared for, no matter how hard we try. It is really tough for restaurants right now, and it is inevitable that we will see more of them closing down during this second round of quarantine. Furthermore, we might not be able to socialize as easily because we can only make take-out orders now, as dining indoors is restricted. 

In this tough period of time, I am so grateful to the remaining open restaurants and their staff, for their services and their determination. Although it is risky, all the servers have still worked hard to deliver us warm and wonderful meals while trying to keep us safe at the same time. As a customer, I won’t ever forget their smiles through the masks, making me feel so much better after so many tough days staying at home. 

The current restrictions have been in effect for two weeks, and its effects are already being seen in restaurants around Seattle. More and more local food places are being closed down, and many restaurant employees are being laid off. It is only us that can stop this from happening to all restaurants. Supporting them might sound like something difficult, but there are some simple ways that we can try.

With restaurants lacking employees to serve for similar amounts of customers before the restrictions, waiting is inevitable; but now, we have some time to spare, don’t we? As the restaurants are working so hard to deliver hot and delicious food to us, a good tip or a warm look through our masks and blurry glasses are one of many ways to show them our support and cheer them up! After a long day, don’t burden yourself too much with cooking; a take-out meal or delivery  order will make your day much easier. Individual  efforts might seem too insignificant to change anything, but don’t forget: We are all in this together.

Thang Nguyen

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