How to be a good diner - our tips on returning to restaurants after April 26

The reopening of our favourite restaurants approaches.

Published 23rd Apr 2021
Updated 8 th Aug 2023

If you want to be kind to the venues you’ve missed over lockdown, here are a few tips on how to be a decent diner.


In pandemic times, it’s inadvisable to just rock up.

Book your table and, even more importantly, if you can’t make it, cancel your reservation asap.

“Everyone has a phone and can quickly ping us an email to cancel a booking, use the booking system or phone us to let us know you no longer require the table” says Vikki Wood of North Queensferry’s The Wee Restaurant, which reopens on April 27.

“As a small business every penny counts, even more so when we reopen to less covers, no alcohol sales, and reduced hours.

"We started taking credit card details for all customers after the first lockdown when the problem of no shows got much worse for some reason”.

If you don’t, you’re due some very bad karma.

Tip like you're in the USA

If you can, leave the waiting staff a little extra. Chances are they’ve had a gruelling year.

Don't push it

It might be tempting to ask for “just one little drinkie”, turn up with a squadron of multiple-household pals, or cuff yourself to the table leg so you don’t have to leave at 8pm, but your restaurant shouldn’t have to police everyone.

You’re in their space, so wear a mask (the fancy Swarovski crystal encrusted one, rather than the surgeon/raver style) if you’re not sitting down, and cancel if you’re feeling even vaguely dicky.

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Get used to early bird dining

We’ve always been big fans of eating at 6pm.

While restaurants are closing at 8pm, get yourself an earlier slot and savour the reduced gap between lunch and dinner.

Dress yourself

It’s too soon to excavate a dusty pair of tights, or wear ties, dangly earrings or anything that restricts your muffin top after a year of lounge-wear.

Still, spare a thought for those neglected clothes in your wardrobe.

They thought you had passed away. Make a modicum of effort, as a dining room looks a lot swankier when it’s not full of people in onesies and slankets.

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Support your favourite independent

“Please support your local, independent restaurant, coffee shop, deli or bar.

"The chains will get through this but a huge amount of our independent restaurateurs won’t”, says Neil Forbes, chef patron, of Cafe St Honore, which is reopening on April 29.

“This is a tough time for all of us; nervousness with reopening after so many months, difficulty with interpreting the constantly changing rules and not knowing what the future will bring.

"Let’s all be kind to each other and hold hands (at a safe distance) as we all get through it. We need you more now than ever before”.

Fred Berkmiller, chef patron of L’Escargot Bleu, reopening April 30, says; “The crisis we are going through with Brexit and covid should tell us that supporting every business within our reach is vital to our local economy and will help sustain small businesses”.

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Keep taking away

Many restaurants, including Cafe St Honore, will be continuing their takeaway offerings, to supplement the reduction in covers.

You’ll also find their stall, with its bridies and treacle tarts, at Edinburgh Farmers’ Market on Saturdays.

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Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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