Indoor dining: 12 tips for enjoying a restaurant meal safely

Book a well ventilated restaurant that you know, visit off peak, and don’t cancel

There will be far fewer diners at off-peak times

There will be far fewer diners at off-peak times


Restaurants around Ireland will open for indoor dining on Monday for people who are fully vaccinated, or who have recovered from a Covid infection within the past six months.

While some people will continue to stick with outdoor dining for the foreseeable future, others are yearning for a return to the comfort of a restaurant. Here’s how to do it safely.

1. Dine with like-minded people

Six is the maximum number of adults and teenagers at a table for indoor dining (up to nine children aged 12 or under can join them, for a total of 15 people at the table), so make sure that they’re the sort of friends who have continued to take the same careful approach following vaccination that you have. You’re going to be sitting at a table for about two hours, masks off, eating and chatting.

2. Plan ahead

Do your research. Spacious, high-ceilinged restaurants are preferable, as airborne transmission is dominant. Check a restaurant’s social media accounts. Have they been cautious with their approach, installed air filtration systems or CO2 monitors? Pick up the phone and give them a call. Ask them about their approach to ventilation. And plan your evening, how you’re going to get to the restaurant and back home. If you’re taking a taxi, ensure your driver is wearing a mask.

3. Visit restaurants you know

Go to a familiar restaurant, where you know the layout, the people running it, and the approach they have been taking throughout the pandemic. Very often these are local restaurants, and it’s always good to support your neighbours.

4. Visit at a quieter time

Everyone wants an 8pm booking on a Friday or Saturday, but what 6pm on a rainy Tuesday? There will be far fewer diners at off-peak times, and if you’re in an airy space with very few other occupied tables it may be the ideal time for you.

5. Go prepared and follow the guidelines

That means wearing a mask. Everybody aged 18 or over will be asked to produce their European Union digital Covid-19 certificate at the door, before entering the restaurant, as well as a form of photo ID, such as a driving licence. (Under-18s who are accompanied by a parent or guardian do not need proof of immunity.) You will also be required to give the name and phone number of one adult member of your party (or of a solo diner), for contact tracing. Please be nice; the person on the door has a tough job.

6. Turn up on time

It may seem obvious, but turning up on time is important. Bookings are staggered, so everyone doesn’t turn up at the same time. Allowing the tables to fill up gradually also makes for a more manageable service in the restaurant. That’s why it’s not always possible to get that 8pm table.

7. Use your judgment when you get there

The minimum requirement is that current measures and protocols are in place in relation to distancing, ventilation, masks, sanitation and cleaning. Wearing a mask is a requirement at all times for restaurant staff. It should cover their nose and mouth. While visors are not prohibited, studies have shown them to be less effective. Check that the room is well ventilated. Indoor spaces with poor ventilation are potential infection hotspots. Dilution of indoor air helps to lower the airborne concentration of the virus.

Some restaurants have installed mechanical ventilation and ozone systems which purify the air and have CO2 monitors. At a minimum, there should be an obvious airflow from open windows and doors, so ask for a table close by.

8. Be respectful and follow the directions of the front of house staff

A time limit for dining is no longer a regulation, but some restaurants may be doing early-bird menus, or looking to have your table back after a certain time. They are entitled to work with a time restriction in order to turn tables, so don’t be “that person” who won’t leave the table when required. And remember, it’s table service. There’s no socialising between tables, which is something we may forget when we spot a friend across the room. Your table is your little space for the evening. It’s not a free for all. Always wear a mask when leaving your table – and remember that you are not allowed to approach or order from the bar or any other counter. Remember, too, that all customers must leave by 11.30pm.

9. Minimise bathroom time

If you want to be extra careful, avoid small, enclosed areas, such as the bathroom, where there is likely to be less ventilation. If visiting the bathroom, wear your mask and keep it on until you return to your table.

10. Consider a CO2 monitor

If you badly want further reassurance, if you’re going to be eating out regularly and if money is no object, you may consider buying your own handheld CO2 monitor (approximately €200 for a good model), which will give you a quick indication of whether ventilation is adequate. It doesn’t monitor virus-carrying aerosols, but when these are exhaled CO2 is too. When ventilation is poor, CO2 accumulates along with the virus, so monitoring this is a good indicator. The level should be below 800 parts per million.

11. Show up

Absolutely critically, do not cancel your booking at the last minute, or worse still, not turn up.

12. Be generous

Tip well, in cash. They’ve earned it.