TEST YOURSELF: Restaurants and the new normal

Photo by Melalin Mahavongtrakul

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Eating out isn’t what it used to be

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Read the following story by Melalin Mahavongtrakul from the Bangkok Post. Then, answer the questions that follow.

These are difficult times for restaurant owners. Busy days filled with diners and people queuing outside have been replaced by days with no customers at all. Some places switched to a take-away menu to survive, while others like Kuai Tiao Pak Mor Yon Yook in Bang Yai market, simply closed. Owner Somsak Rattanawanwimon decided to reopen earlier this month.

"The reopening was better. There were customers coming, but it still wasn't as good as how it used to be," he said.


Following a decline in the number of new coronavirus infections in Thailand, the government decided to relax the lockdown. However, things cannot just go back to normal. Diners are now facing a new normal.

After relying on food delivery and home-cooked meals for over a month during the lockdown, diners are now gradually going back to eating out at restaurants, both in the streets and the recently opened shopping malls.

Restaurants must follow new rules such as providing hand sanitiser, adopting social distancing, and not selling alcohol. Some are also taking a playful approach to add cuddly toys on empty seats to make diners feel less lonely.

As for Somsak, after the reopening of his noodle shop following a month’s closure, he cleans the place every two hours and offers hand sanitiser and temperature checks. He has also added partitions between seats, which he said cost about 100-200 baht each.

"If I don't add the partitions, I'd worry about my staff, too. Normally, the restaurant can seat 25-30 people at a time. However, with the partition and social distancing measure, I can only take eight to nine people. So, that's like 70-80% of customers missing," he added.


With the current low number of daily infections, how careful must customers and restaurant operators be?

Assoc Prof Chalat Santivarangkna, director of the Institute of Nutrition at Mahidol University, said that despite the seemingly lower risk, both parties still have to remain alert and careful.

"We can never know if anyone is asymptomatic [showing no symptoms or signs of being infected]. There's also a window period to this disease. On the other hand, we could also be carrying the virus ourselves. So, it is suggested that everyone continue to observe protective measures such as washing hands and wearing face masks," said Chalat.

Some of the most concerning aspects of eating out nowadays have to do with the density of the crowd and the level of hygiene being observed.

Chalat said that restaurants should be watchful of the distance between tables and make sure the space is well ventilated. He also suggested some additional ways restaurants can adjust during this period, such as using contactless payment.

The partition that many restaurants, including Somsak's, have installed is also a helpful idea to protect against droplets that can be released while talking, coughing and sneezing.

On the table, the normally small pieces of tissue paper available may be switched to bigger alternatives that customers can use to cover their entire mouth when they need to sneeze or cough. Additionally, a rubbish bin with a lid should be placed by each table so that customers can dispose of used papers right away.

Moreover, restaurants may have to provide more space for washing hands. The use of automatic faucets and soap dispensers has been encouraged to limit contact and hand dryers can be replaced with the use of single-use, disposable tissue paper instead. The use of hand towels hung by the sink, which are used repeatedly, is discouraged.

Restaurant staff should also wear masks and observe strict hygiene protocol. If possible, there should be separate staff for each duty as if the staff who handles money also cooks and serves the food, there could be a higher risk. Meanwhile, during cleaning, the rag should be washed in between wiping each surface and the use of disinfectant is also encouraged.

Section 1: 

1-4. According to the article, which measures should restaurants use to protect against Covid? Choose 4:

a. accept 20-30% of customers

b. have automatic bathroom taps

c. provide more hand towels

d. use disinfectant

e. clean hourly

f. provide small tissues

g. ventilate well

h. provide waste bins

i. provide masks

5-6. And what measures should customers use? Choose 2:

a. bring cuddly toys

b. use the Thai Chana website

c. wash each other’s hands often

d. practise social distancing

e. wear a mask

7. Where does Chalat work?

8. How long did Somsak’s restaurant close for? 

Section 2: Write the noun form of the following words in the space provided.

9. survive ……… 10. relax ……… 11. lonely ………. 12. observe ………. 13. protect ……….

Section 3: Read the following passage. Then, fill in the blanks with the correct words from the choices given.

Diners also have to be …14… and observe their own rules, which includes washing hands before and after eating out and …15… leaving used tissues on the table. Eating by hand is …16… .

“Many of these 'norms' won't stay with us forever,” said Chalat. “They may …17… for a year or two. …18… we have the vaccine and it's safer, we may go back to how we were before. So, I don't think many of the measures we are following now will …19… end up as a new normal.”

14. A. response      B. responsible    C. responsibility

15. A. to avoid    B. avoided    C. avoiding

16. A. disturbed    B. discouraged    C. diseased

17. A. last     B. be     C. have

18. A. However     B. Still        C. Once 

19. A. however    B. actually     C. actual

Section 4: Find words that match the following definitions.

20. the average number of people in a space ……………

21. (of an item) made to be used once then thrown away ……………

22. demanding that rules be followed ……………

23. a system of rules …………

24. advised to do something ……………

Answers: 1-4. b,d,g,h  5-6. d,e 7. Mahidol University. 8. one month. 

9. survival. 10. relaxation. 11. loneliness. 12. observation. 13. protection.

14.b. 15.c. 16.b. 17.a. 18. c. 19. b. 

20. density. 21. disposable. 22. strict. 23. protocol. 24. encouraged.

SCORE 21-24: Excellent! 17-20: Good.   13-16: Fair.   12 or fewer: You'll do better next time!


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