How South African diners feel about eating out with fewer Covid restrictions in place

Things are seemingly returning to normal and this brings relief and excitement to diners across the country. But the pandemic has left its mark. Even with fewer restrictions, the way we dine or what we expect from our dining experience has changed.

While the pandemic will now be managed in terms of the National Health Act (as opposed to the state of disaster), the president said certain provisional regulations will remain in place for a further 30 days (from 5 April) to ensure a smooth handover to the new regulations. These include:

  • We will still be required to wear a mask in indoor public spaces, but wearing a mask outdoors is no longer required.
  • The existing restrictions on gatherings will continue as a transitional measure. This means that both indoor and outdoor venues can take up to 50% of their capacity subject to proof of vaccination and a negative Covid test not older than 72 hours. The current limit of 1,000 people indoors and 2,000 people outdoors will remain the same for the unvaccinated.

With this news in mind, we reached out to local diners and asked them questions about dining in conditions that are less restrictive and what their expectations are.

The first question gauged how often people would be willing to dine out. The responses reveal that as much as there’s excitement around dining out freely, there’s a lot more natural apprehension among diners as the pandemic is waning but not yet over: 65% of respondents said they would dine out less often, 28% said they would dine out as frequently as before, and only 7% said they would dine out more often than before.

With regards to still wearing masks, 47% of patrons said they would still wear a mask when dining out, but 53% said they would not. However, 51% of diners would still want restaurant staff to wear masks, with the remaining 41% not bothered by staff with no masks.

When respondents were asked whether they would take a sanitiser with them to a restaurant, 54% said yes and 46% said no. On whether they would prefer the restaurant to still offer a hand sanitiser, 74% of people said yes, with only 26% saying no. According to this, the standardisation of hand sanitiser in restaurants could be a post-Covid characteristic. But it seems the same can not be said of temperature checks as only 18% of respondents said they would prefer restaurants to still have them in place.

The last question engaged with whether restaurant tables should still adhere to the 1.5 social distancing regulation and 59% of people said yes to this.

So it seems that even as we return to normal, diners are ready for gradual changes, and restaurants may do well to keep this in mind.

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