At least 340 restaurants are officially back up and operational… well, as operational as you can be with face masks on.
After three months of not being able to dine out in Malta, people were finally allowed to venture out of their homes to eat at a restaurant Friday and Saturday night. For many, it must have felt like the first time in an eternity.
However, just because the doors are open doesn’t mean things are exactly as they used to be.
I visited a popular Mosta restaurant last night to see how much things had changed since the last time I sat down at their table.
1. Approaching the restaurant and seeing people sitting around tables and chatting freely still made us feel wary.
After months of instinctively avoiding groups and congregations, heading towards them felt weird. But when you get closer and see the distance between tables and face masks being worn by the waiting staff, the initial fear begins to fade away.
2. All the tables were outside – but I still needed to go inside to order.
They were allowing two people in at once, and they needed to keep at a distance from each other, which was good. I also needed to wear a face mask when ordering.
When you enter, there’s a hand sanitizer bottle awaiting your touch, like all good restaurants should have from here on out.
3. Choosing where to sit was the scariest part.
Seeing staff clean in between customers was heartening – but it still took an effort to be okay with grabbing chairs and resting your hands on the table.
Things like salt and pepper shakers and ketchup bottles were long gone – every condiment was served in sachets.
4. Staff and chefs were, thankfully, wearing face masks.
Though I don’t envy working a physically demanding job like waiting or cooking over a hot grill while wearing a mask, it does give customers more confidence in how seriously you are taking things amid a pandemic.
Earlier yesterday I had entered a different popular franchise to grab lunch… only to find its workers not wearing masks. When I asked them why they weren’t, they said they didn’t need to.
We ended up leaving as we didn’t feel too secure.
5. Needless to say, the service was fast and friendly.
Maybe it’s because we’ve been missing them, or because they’ve really been missing us, but service was super keen to help, and food was served quickly – and boy did it taste good.
6. By the end of the meal, I barely felt like anything had ever changed.
After five minutes of sitting at the table, eating, drinking and chatting away, it really did feel like things were slowly coming back to normal.
The furtive glances from strangers that were the norm for months had been replaced with the casual “what are you eating?” looks, and the very fact that waiting staff and chefs were going about their duties as they normally would really helped bring things back.
Only a fraction of restaurants have taken on the task of having their establishment fully in compliance with the government’s regulations. However, the slow rollout of dining out again is a welcome relief for many who probably need a bit of comfort eating after the last three months – and honestly, not having to wait too long for your food is a nice silver lining to all of this chaos.