Column | Pro tips for outdoor dining in yellow

At the stroke of midnight, Montgomery County moved from the red phase to the yellow phase of the pandemic reopening plan. This move allows for outdoor dining with certain guidelines. Here are some tips and suggestions.


You are required to wear a mask until seated and put it back on if you leave your seat to go to the bathroom, etc. When you leave to go home, you have to put it back on. If you do not like being told to wear a mask, then either don’t go or do the restaurant a favor and suck it up and wear the mask. The restaurants are trying to survive the pandemic and don’t need the hassle of you not wearing a mask. Protest on your own time.


Having been in the outdoor event business for most of my career, there is no better guarantee for nice weather than to cancel an event due to a weather forecast. When you make a reservation with a restaurant, make a commitment to convert your reservation into a to-go order if the weather is bad and your reservation needs to be canceled.

Some restaurants have had to put up tents, obtained more outdoor furniture, and of course, prep the food and bring in staff. You are making a reservation at a particular restaurant likely because you want to help it survive the pandemic. Be sure to tell them you want the food no matter what.


Reservations are suggested by the state’s guidelines. Don’t take it as a suggestion. Make one.

The last thing that a restaurant needs right now is a crowd of people standing around. If you must go without a reservation or if a restaurant isn’t accepting reservations, check-in and wait in your car.

And call the restaurant directly to make a reservation (unless a restaurant specifically directs you an online service). Those online services charge the restaurant a significant fee. Going direct helps the restaurant.

Henry Hill!

It’s not the time to think you are Henry Hill in Goodfellas. Don’t expect to be walked through the kitchen and a table set up special just for you.

The restaurants are dealing with a lot right now. Besides the pandemic, which has impacted them since mid-March, just this week they were asked to bring in furniture and planters in fear of looting, and then many lost power for more than 48 hours. Now imagine dealing with that while you are trying to bring back staff and retraining everyone to the new guidelines.

If the reservations are closed, make one for a future date. Don’t like your table, be thankful you are able to be out. Don’t ask for any favors right now. Follow the rules.


If you aren’t comfortable going out just yet and would like takeout or delivery, understand the more traditional sit-down restaurants are in a transition period back to their normal business.

The volume of takeout/delivery orders they were able to handle during the red phase likely won’t be the same in the yellow phase when they have outdoor dining. Their kitchens can only produce so much food each day. Do not be disappointed when you can’t get a takeout or delivery order from a certain restaurant, be happy they are getting back to normal.


The restaurants have been given all types of obstacles to overcome and things likely won’t be perfect. Give Yelp a rest.