Overrated – by Evan Markowitz
Imagine walking into your doctor’s office and sheepishly admitting that you caught COVID-19 not from a party, not from a crazy hookup, but from a Denny’s. I can’t imagine a greater embarrassment. This exact scenario, however, is one plaguing the nation and the world at large.
Let me start with a full disclosure: since March 2020, I have only eaten away from home once. I ate outside at an Italian restaurant for my grandmother’s birthday after many weeks of isolation. It was delicious and I believe that my family practiced the correct social distancing protocols and etiquette. That said, you wouldn’t catch me dead eating indoors at a restaurant right now. It just doesn’t make any sense to.
We live in a world where literally any cuisine is available at the push of a button. What was once limited to pizza and Chinese takeout is now all-inclusive. I could open my phone right now and get chicken from Popeyes, a shake from Sonic or a delicious acaí bowl from Playa Bowls without leaving my chair. In an age like this, why do we even need to go out to eat? Let’s face it: we’re NJIT students. It isn’t like we’re trying to impress people on fancy date nights. Taco Bell on the floor of your dorm will do just fine, thank you.
That said, I know that an opportunity to feel fancy and dare I say human, can be a good thing from time to time. With that in mind, I would like to introduce the amazing innovation of cooking! For probably half the cost of a meal at a restaurant and a few hours to watch Binging with Babish videos, you can make yourself and a date a delicious meal for two. Don some fancy clothes, maybe order some nice silverware from Amazon and voila! A date night that you and your partner will never forget, all with the added benefit of not contracting a once-in-a-generation plague from the family in the booth next to you being a bit overzealous while blowing out birthday candles.
As someone who misses the luxuries we took for granted in the before times, I can totally understand wanting a bit of normalcy, but of all the creature comforts the pre-COVID-19 world had to offer, eating inside at a restaurant is definitely the most overrated.
Underrated – by Sabastian Fernandes
The midday lunch break at a local eatery is a staple in modern work and school culture, acting as a godsent milestone marker in the midst of all your overdue projects that lets you know “good job, you deserve a break.” However, according to a study by the National Restaurant Association back in December, 17% of US restaurants have closed permanently or long-term, with many more suspended indefinitely. Small food businesses, especially those that can’t offer outdoor dining, are being bought out and overtaken by large drive-through and chain corporations with priority partnerships with DoorDash, Uber Eats, Postmates and others. What can we do to save these local restaurants? Under the right safety conditions, returning to the brick-and-mortar establishments could be a starting point.
The CDC has worked closely with public services such as restaurant businesses to develop a set of guidelines towards maintaining healthy environments in indoor dining areas. Such mandates include cleaning and disinfection, improved air filtering systems, reduced maximum occupancy and newly installed sneeze barriers. The effect is such that NY contact tracing research shows that eating indoors only accounts for 1.43% of the state’s total confirmed exposures. All of these provisions, when implemented effectively in conjunction with one another, makes the dangers of indoor dining virtually indistinguishable from the dangers of any other level of safe social interaction.
Eating indoors is also certainly better on your wallet, which service fees, delivery fees and merchant fees from ordering online piling up significantly, with some restaurants like Tops Diner listing meal prices even higher on delivery apps.
Local restaurants are often neglected in the face of corporate food factories, when not only are they often higher quality establishments, but they also often give back to the community that populates their stores by buying locally. I think we owe it to our favorite local restaurants to support them through these times, when choosing your favorite mom and pop shop over a McDonalds could really be the difference between life and death for some of these businesses.
Now more than ever, people should be taking their health and safety to the highest levels of concern. By all means, a meal is no reason to gamble a life over, especially if you are at a higher risk of infection. Eating out at restaurants offering indoor dining isn’t for everybody, but for the general public, there is a significantly lowered risk in going every once in a while. As long as restaurants continue following CDC and state guidelines, indoor, in-person dining can be reclaimed in the name of ‘normalcy’ during this uncertain time during the slowly-but-surely improving prospects of the COVID-19 pandemic.