The new takeout rules you need to know

Posted: May 26, 2020 in Did you know?
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A guide to ordering food during a pandemic

BB14s73OThe coronavirus pandemic has given everyone a lot of food for thought on whether or not it’s safe to order food for takeout, delivery or pick-up. The short answer is yes, it’s safe – but it’s better to take a few extra steps to be sure. From the best way to order and tipping to proper packaging handling, here is a list of practices to follow.

Thoroughly wash your hands

All the experts agree: the single most important thing you can do when it comes to ordering takeout is to wash your hands, frequently. Wash them or use sanitizer after you handle delivery bags and containers and always before you eat.

Research your delivery app

Want to order food? There’s an app for that. Actually, there are several apps for that – but they’re not all created equal. There are some notable differences in how much some apps charge, how they treat their drivers and how well they support the restaurants they work with.

Some apps are greedier than others

Delivery numbers have spiked amid the coronavirus crisis and some apps have upped their fees for either users, restaurants or both. In fact, New York City has now placed a cap on how much delivery apps can charge restaurants to use their services. And apps operating in Chicago must provide itemized receipts that show exactly where (and to whom) your money goes.

Order directly from restaurants if you can

Delivery apps are popular but restaurants benefit the most from direct orders. If you really want to support your local dining scene or favorite restaurant, check and see if it offers direct delivery.

Ask about safety precautions

Before ordering, check with the restaurant and ask what precautions are in place when it comes to the people who are handling your food. Getting this kind of feedback can help you decide if you feel comfortable ordering food from them.

Know the rules and recommendations

It may come as a surprise but the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises food workers not to wear gloves when preparing or packaging food. Why? They found that workers tended to wash their hands less when they were wearing gloves. The specific rules and regulations will vary from city to city and country to country, so do your research and know the protocols they should be following before you call.

Hold disposable utensils

Request your delivery order without disposable cutlery. Not only does it lower any cross-contamination risk, but it also means less waste which is better for the environment. You’ve got your own forks, knives and spoons at home so there’s no excuse!

Tip your driver well

While lockdowns persist and reopenings come in phases, delivery is one of the only things keeping restaurants afloat. Delivery people are an essential part of that operation. Many food delivery drivers were struggling with questionable working conditions and pay before the pandemic hit. Being a generous tipper during these hard times is a great way to show your appreciation for them.

Put your delivery bag in the kitchen sink

Got the goods? Put the bag into your kitchen sink to keep possible contamination under control. The catch? You just have to be ready with a clean, dry sink by the time the food arrives. Sometimes that’s easier said than remembered.

Clear an area to sort delivery containers

Your sink may be big enough to hold your delivery bag but chances are you’ll need a little space to unpack containers. Think ahead and clear off enough space on the counter so you’re ready when the bell rings and your food arrives. Try to make enough space so the containers won’t be touching – and possibly contaminating – anything nearby.

Re-plate food before eating

We know you’re hungry but resist the urge to eat food straight out of the takeout container. Studies show that the virus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on plastic for several days. Stay safe and transfer food into a dish or plate you’ve got at home before eating it.

Wash or sanitize hands between each step

Wash or use hand sanitizer before you move food from the takeout container into your own dishes, or use utensils like a spoon, spatula or fork. Remember your hands will have been exposed to whatever contaminates may be on the takeout bags and containers and that could easily transfer to your food without the proper precautions.

Throw away all delivery containers and bags

As the virus can survive on common delivery container surfaces like cardboard and plastic, it’s best to toss delivery containers after you transfer the food into your own dishes. Don’t forget to wash your hands afterwards!

Wipe down the counter and sink

After you’ve transferred your food onto your own dishes and thrown away the takeout containers, give the sink and counter a thorough clean with antibacterial disinfectant to remove any possible contagions from the containers.

The riskiest part of delivery is the handoff

Worried your food might infect you? Your concern is mostly misguided. The most dangerous part of ordering takeout isn’t the food, it’s the delivery. Face-to-face delivery handoffs put both you and your delivery person in danger since it requires contact. Think about all the different people the delivery person may have come into contact with while making their deliveries. If you must do a direct handoff, be sure to wear a mask and gloves.

Choose contactless delivery whenever possible

The safest delivery method is contactless delivery. This option is becoming more and more popular and is easy to request, even if you don’t see it listed when you order. All it means is that your food will be delivered without any face-to-face interaction with the delivery person. They will either leave it outside your front door, in your apartment lobby or in the building stairwell, and text or call to let you know it’s been delivered.

Prepay for your meal and the tip

If you’re still paying for your delivery with cash, it’s time to change your ways. Cash may be king but it’s also carrying germs and usually requires some kind of face-to-face handoff, which is best to avoid. Most delivery apps and websites have a card or PayPal option which is a safer payment choice.

Wear a mask at the drive-thru

Getting your food from a drive-thru? Wear a mask when you approach the pick-up window to help protect you. Drive-thru pick-ups are a little riskier than curbside or delivery since you will have a direct handoff, so be prepared and take precautions.

Place pick-up orders on the floor of your car

Immediately put any to-go bags somewhere on the floor of your car. This way, you’re keeping any possible contamination in an area that doesn’t touch much except the bottom of your shoes. If you want to be extra careful, lay down a paper towel first and just bin it afterwards.

Have hand sanitizer at the ready

Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in the car for easy access after handling your pick-up food. Sanitize your hands each time after touching the takeout bag or removing any gloves, and before touching anything else in the car like the steering wheel or hand brake.

Remove any unnecessary outer packaging

If you’re unpacking a grocery delivery, throw away extra exterior packaging. Things like packs of crackers, cereal and noodle cups often have a layer of cardboard or plastic shrink wrap that can be removed easily and won’t be missed. Removing this kind of packaging means you’ll have less to worry about when handling or wiping down your groceries.

Food is safer than you may think

Worried that you might contract coronavirus from your food? According to experts, it’s not likely. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease which means it’s not spread through food ingestion. And, although it’s not nice to think about a cook accidentally sneezing or coughing while preparing your food, the likelihood of catching the virus in this way is low.

Wash your hands before eating

If there’s only one thing you take away from this, let it be that you need to wash your hands before you eat. Use soapy water and lather up for 20 to 30 seconds. This will effectively kill any possible bits of the virus that you may have come into contact with on your food packaging. Now, relax, enjoy and eat!

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