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13 Rules for Dining Outside in New Jersey

New Jersey restaurants will start allowing families the ability to enjoy dining outside starting June 15, 2020. Indoor dining is still prohibited. Before you start dining outside with your family, please keep these rules and suggestions in mind.

To develop this list, I looked at the New Jersey guidelines for outside dining and the feedback I have been reading and listening to from those in the restaurant industry. I also thought about my own experiences as a mom and what it’s like to dine out with my kids. Together, we can make dining out a pleasant experience for everyone involved.

a collage of pictures to represent outdoor dining in New Jersey
Vase with flowers on the table in the restaurant outside. Bali. Asia.

Help us support the restaurant industry

I think we can all agree that New Jersey restaurants are hurting right now, especially our servers and wait staff on the front lines. Jersey Family Fun wants to make a difference.

One of the ways, Jersey Family Fun earns money is through the views of this blog post. When you read any article on our website, you’ll see ads on the sidebar, below the article, and between some paragraphs. We earn income on those ads. The more an article is read, the more ad income we earn.

From now till December 31, 2020, I will track the income this article makes and I will donate 50% of it to the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. You can learn more below and at their website, They accept online donations as well.

The Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (“Fund”) was created to help restaurant industry employees experiencing extraordinary hardship in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. Through this Fund, grants will be made to restaurant industry employees who have been impacted by COVID-19, including a decrease in wages or loss of employment. Grants will be awarded as soon as possible to those individuals who meet the prescribed eligibility criteria, as reviewed and verified by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF). This Fund is operated by the NRAEF, whose mission is to attract, empower and advance today’s and tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice workers.

Restaurant Employee Relief Fund

Update for Applicants on 5/8: We are sending out 10,000 new award notifications today. Please be sure to check your…

Posted by National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation on Friday, May 8, 2020

13 Rules for Dining Outside in New Jersey

Ask about reservations

To control the traffic in the restaurant and reduce wait times reservation systems will be in place for outdoor dining at New Jersey restaurants. Call ahead to see if you will be required to have a reservation.

Your phone number will likely be required to facilitate contact tracing. Additionally, it’s helpful for a restaurant to have your phone number in the event the restaurant needs to close due to poor weather conditions.

Tables situated outdoors for dining in New Jersey

Go before you go

Avoid having to need public restrooms by going before you go to the restaurant.

Wait safely

Waiting areas will need to respect a safe 6 feet distance between groups waiting to eat. If there is no room to wait safely, consider asking the hostess if there is a better time for you to come back or if you can wait in your car. If you can’t consider visiting another restaurant offering dining outside.

Gone may be those vibrating pagers/buzzers that vibrate when your table is ready. Many restaurants will notify customers their table is ready by using phone calls and text messages. It’s another reason to share your phone number when making your reservation.

two girls enjoy dining outside at a New Jersey restaurant

Order once

Think before you order. Ask for everything you need at once. We might be used to ordering drinks, then waiting before ordering appetizers, and then later we order our meals. Let’s not do that anymore. Think about what you need with your meal: water, salt/pepper, steak sauce, dressing, other condiments, extra napkins. By minimizing the number of times your server has to come to your table, you reduce the person-to-person contact between you and them.

Keep your hands to yourself

Don’t touch anything you don’t need to. Sometimes while dining out we may want to grab a chair from another table, a table setting, or the condiments. Or our kids want to play with everything on the table. Don’t. Encourage your kids to keep their hands to themselves. The more things we touch the more we increase our chance to pass and catch germs. We also make the restaurant’s job harder as everything touched will need to be cleaned.

Chairs, tables, and bar stools roped off or marked are off limits and not to be used.

kid coloring while dining outside in New Jersey

Stay seated

When our kids are younger they may have a hard time sitting still. You may be used to having them walk around the restaurant as they wait for their food. That can’t happen right now. Tables will be seated 6 feet apart, but it’s not an invitation to move about. The space is needed to keep everyone safe.

If your kid is likely to have the wiggles, come prepared. Bring a coloring book, a travel game, or something for them to read. Grab a box of conversation cards or find an app with conversation topics, get your kids engaged by talking so it’s easier for them to sit still.

New Jersey restaurant waitress puts on a mask.

Respect the mask

Regardless of how you feel about masks restaurant hostesses and servers are required to wear masks and gloves. The masks and gloves are there to protect you. If you like your server’s mask compliment them. If you don’t be quiet. Either way, say thanks. Masks can be uncomfortable to wear for long shifts, but again it is something they are doing to keep you and your kids safe.

Bring a mask or face covering with you for yourself and the members of your dining group. Guests will be required to wear a mask/face covering anytime they are away from their table. The only exception to this is if the customer has a medical reason for not doing so or is a child under two years of age.

A outdoor table at the Seaport Pier in Wildwood New Jersey.

Linger elsewhere

In normal circumstances, we might like to linger around the table. There’s nothing better than delicious desserts and wonderful conversations. Now’s not the time.

Eat your meal. Have dessert but please do not sit at a table for longer than you need to. Take your conversation to the car, the beach, home, somewhere beyond the restaurant. Our restaurants are working with limited space and time. If you are taking time away from another family that could be dining outside, you are hurting the restaurant’s business.

two Asian girls being silly as they wait to eat outdoors at a New Jersey restaurant

Be open to change. Be flexible

By the time you prepare to dine outside with your family, restaurants will have put in place a number of safety and sanitation protocols set forth by Governor Murphy. Your restaurant experience at your favorite restaurant may look a little different. Be flexible. Be open to change and letting your restaurant figure out how to operate in this environment of new restrictions.

  • Menus may be on paper or on large boards to prevent the spread of germs on menus and the need to clean menus between use. Or you may be encouraged to order using their online menu.
  • Traditional silverware and linens maybe replaced with disposable ones.
  • Refillable popcorn, peanuts, drinks may not be an option in order to reduce the amount of contact your server needs to have with you.
  • In order to have one less thing hostesses need to give to kids, restaurants may avoid giving out crayons for coloring the menu. Keep some and a coloring book in your purse, just in case.
  • Traditional condiments may not be on the table. Look for them before you order and request them when you place your order.
  • The menu may offer fewer items that you are used to. Reductions in food supply may affect the menu options the restaurant can offer.
  • Self-service food or drink options such as buffets, salad bars, and self-service drink stations are prohibited.
  • ALL restaurant employees will need to keep a safe distance from each other and you. That doesn’t just affect you and your server but also the employees in the back of the house; chefs, dishwashers, and others.

One significant change

Tables will be limited to 8 people or less. This is a mandated requirement. This is not something restaurants are opting to do. It’s something they MUST do. If your family is larger or you were hoping to dine out with friends, reconsider. Choose curbside service, take out, or a restaurant that offers those for your meal. Order that way and take your meal to your home or a park or beach where you can safely sit together. Visit our New Jersey Restaurants with Curbside Service, Drive Thrus, Take Out or Delivery for a list of options.

Watch the weather

New Jersey food or beverage establishments are required to have an inclement weather policy. If the weather is not suitable for dining outside they may have to switch over to temporarily offering takeout or delivery

interracial couple enjoys outdoor dining in New Jersey

If you are sick or appear sick, stay home.

Expect to see signage at the restaurant entrances that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19 should enter the food or beverage establishment.

If you’re sick, stay home. That may seem obvious, but also consider if you look sick. When my allergies are in full on attack mode, my eyes are watery and puffy. My nose is red. I can’t stop sneezing. I look like a hot mess. While I know I’m not sick, I know I look like I am. Rather than make other diners and my server try to guess what’s going on, it’s better for me to stay home. No one will be able to enjoy a meal if they are worried they are near someone that’s sick and I know I wouldn’t be able to if everyone was staring at me.

outdoor dining at new Jersey restaurants

Be patient

You are going to need to be more patient than ever dining out. New Jersey restaurant employees will need to pass a health screening before starting their shifts. Tables, chairs, menus and utensils, anything that a group touched during dining outside, must be disinfected after each use. Employees will be provided with additional break time for repeated handwashing throughout their workday. Staff are learning new procedures. Restaurants are not allowed to fill every table they have. All of this is going to add to the time before your family can be seated and the time it might take to be served.

In addition to what your server is dealing with in the workplace, we don’t know what they are dealing with at home. Do they go home to take care of a sick family member? Are they concerned about their child’s care while they work? Are there other concerns pressing on their mind? We can’t know. If your server is not bubbly or happy, show them grace.

Be patient. Be understanding. Be kind.

Asian child sits outside to eat a cup of chocolate ice cream.

Tip generously

It’s always been important to tip when you get great customer service. Now it’s more important that ever to tip generously. Wait staff have likely seen a reduction in their wages due to restaurants being closed. Even now with the start of dining outside in New Jersey, a server’s hours may not be what they are used to. A server may be serving a smaller number of tables during a shift. If a restaurant can not handle the capacity it’s used to, they don’t need the number of wait staff they would normally have either.

All these factors contribute to wait staff and servers making less than they used to. If you can tip generously please do.

Seaport Pier restaurant in Wildwood New Jersey offers outdoor dining.
Enjoy dining outside with great views of the beach and Morey’s Piers. Seaport Pier restaurant in Wildwood New Jersey offers outdoor dining.

Be happy. Be thankful.

Yay! You are finally leaving the house with the kids to do something fun. Be pleasant! Be happy! Know that the staff is doing their best to provide you with a great experience. It’s our job to show them happiness and kindness. You’re going home after your meal. They may still have a few hours till they can retreat to the comfort of their home. Your kindness or lack of it will have an impact on the rest of their shift.

How do you want to be remembered? Make a difference with your actions! Make a difference to their day with how you act!

outdoor table at New Jersey restaurant

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Remember from now till December 31, 2020, I will track the income this article makes and I will donate 50% of it to the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. Learn more or donate at their website,

Want to support Jersey Family Fun as you dine out with your kids?

Did you know that Jersey Family Fun is a small NJ-women owned business that supports other moms that want to work from home, small businesses, and community organizations? We are! Part of the way we do that is with affiliate relationships with online stores like Amazon. When you use one of our links to make a purchase we receive a small commission that gets invested back into this site. With that in mind, we’d love it if you would consider buying one of the below items, to use when dining outside, with these links. It will make dining out with kids easier and help us at the same time.

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