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Even after we go back to a sense of normalcy, the COVID crisis will have changed the way we dine out forever. Some of these changes are long overdue.

Who thought allowing customers to refill their own drinks was a good idea? Think about it. Someone has had their mouth on the glass that they’re then going press against the dispenser. 

There are plenty more changes to the dining landscape. The Microsoft News website recently ran an article highlighting some things that we’ll probably never see again, even after restaurants return to “normal” operations. Among some of the highlights of the article: 

Say goodbye to pre-set tables. In pre-COVID times, most restaurants would pre-set every setting at an open table, so it was ready and waiting for diners.  

Drink garnishes are a thing of the past. Too much hands-on touching goes into prepping and placing those slices of fruit, so most restaurants are likely to opt-out of the risk. 

Unwrapped straws, it seems like a bit of a dubious practice, even if it's just the bartender who's repeatedly reaching into the supply. 

Tabletop condiments, instead of bottles of catsup and mustard, expect to see individually packaged or individual servings of your favorite sauces and dips. 

Standard menus will give way to disposable models or QR available apps. If you're noticing a pattern here, it's that most things that end up being touched over and over by different patrons are being eliminated. 

Shared tables will no longer be viable and I for one couldn’t be happier. I prefer to choose with whom I want to spend my evening. 

Bins of cutlery at casual restaurants. This is another change that’s for the better. The containers holding that cutlery were breeding grounds for bacteria and allowed anyone to touch something you were going to put in your mouth. 

Napkin dispensers will disappear or at least be replaced by the pop-up variety. 

Waitstaff filling water from pitchers. I admit, this one surprised me. I never considered the fact that those water pitchers often used to touch the water inside the glass from which the diners had sipped. Gross! 

Self-serve ice cream and frozen yogurt machines. I stopped using these years ago when, on a cruise, I saw a kid eating directly from the machine. 

The article also strongly argued that this would be the end of all-you-can-eat buffets and salad bars. I doubt that will happen. People love the all-you-can-eat concept, so it won’t disappear. You may see a change in format. 

In Chicago, many sushi restaurants had an all-you-can-eat option. Diners ordered from a special menu, limit of three items per order. As long as they finished what was on their plate, they could reorder as many times as they liked. We may see this practice being implemented in more places. 

As in nature, it will be survival of the fittest and the restaurants that learn how to adapt will manage to live to serve another day. 

Restaurants aren’t the only places learning how to adapt to the new normal. Hunter’s, one of Wilton Manors’ most popular clubs, has transformed itself into a supper club of sorts. You’ll now find the dance floor is home to bistro tables, appropriately distanced. And in addition to cocktails, you now can (and must) order food.  

Mark, the socially minded owner of Hunters, offers menu items provided by local eateries. In addition to Hunter’s own dishes, including Patrick’s all-beef wiener, you can also enjoy Bubbles & Pearls’ shrimp cocktail, Bona’s antipasto plate, and Le Patio’s house-made hummus, served with assorted crackers and parsley. Business has been fantastic and with reduced capacity you can expect a wait for a table, unless you arrive early. 

Rick Karlin is SFGN's food editor. Visit to read his previous reviews. Have a culinary tip to share? Email Rick at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..