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When restaurants in Merida reopen, what will eating out be like?

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The Fiesta Americana renovated its buffet in 2019. It will require more changes before reopening. Photo: Courtesy

Dining in restaurants is at least a month away, but what will the experience be like once table service returns to Yucatan?

A document from the restaurant guild, listing strict health protocols, gives several clues.

A “Mesa Segura” guide by the The National Chamber of the Industry of Restaurants and Seasoned Foods (Canirac) lists sanitation measures to prevent coronavirus from spreading.

There will be no more approaching a table already set with silverware, plates or even napkin holders, or being handed a menu that was already touched by someone else.

The “new normal” of these restaurants suggests that customers should preferably book online. Dining room capacity will be reduced to create physical space between everyone. Tables will hold no more than 10 people.

Menus will be digital, disposable, on blackboards or — if they are in plastic menu holders — sanitized after each use. Table linens must be changed after each seating and handled with gloves. Condiments will be served in individual portions.

Children’s areas, or board-game sections, will remain closed. No playing checkers when you don’t know where those pieces have been.

Self-serve buffets are gone. Food on display will be behind glass or plexiglass, and customers will point at what they want while an employee with a face mask loads the plates. Customers will keep at least 1.5 meters / 5 feet apart.

Cash, a potential virus carrier, is discouraged in favor of electronic payments.

Eduardo Vázquez and Aremy Yrys, married co-owners of Flamante Burgers & Friends, since March have been restricted to delivering their artisan comfort food to customers’ homes. But they are starting to visualize how to reopen their dining room on Calle 64 and 47.

For example, to reduce physical interaction, waiters will no longer hover over tables to take orders.

“I think we will have to develop an app or website to order and pay from the table,” said Vázquez. “For us, costumer service is very important, we love it, is part of us. So that won’t change. The only think changing is distance.”

All restaurants must have a sanitizing floor mat, provide antibacterial gel, and keep doors open to avoid anyone having to touch the handles.

The restaurant sector will probably be one of the last to open, possibly between June 15 and 30. Until then, the eateries still operating are delivering packaged meals to homes, either with in-house staff or services such as Rappi.

Yucatan’s governor on Friday will announce more details on how the economy will gradually reopen.

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