Introducing the Diner Code of Conduct for a COVID-19 World

Diners and restaurants can make eating out a far safer—and more pleasant—experience for workers and patrons alike with the new Diner Code of Conduct, a shared initiative of Food & Society at the Aspen Institute, the James Beard Foundation, and the National Restaurant Association in collaboration with Resy. This initiative invites restaurant guests to be full partners with restaurants in helping maintain a safe environment for patrons and employees.

The Diner Code of Conduct was written by the working committee of Safety First: Serving Food and Protecting People During Covid-19, the Food & Society program’s comprehensive the restaurant-safety guidelines, released in July. The James Beard Foundation asked several national regional panels of restaurant owners and chefs to advise what would best serve both restaurants and customers. The National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe program reviewed the Diner Code to harmonize with its standard-setting national guidelines.

Resy, the reservation platform owned by American Express, translated the “Diner Code of Conduct” into a visual infographic for restaurants around the country to display in any guest-facing touchpoints (as posters in their windows or at a restaurant’s host stand, or digitally on social media, websites). The goal of the materials—distributed to thousands of restaurant partners—is to make it easier for restaurant operators to communicate safety protocol to diners. The James Beard Foundation is now distributing and promoting the Code, and the National Restaurant Association will share the Code throughout their membership and industry partners. 

“The rules of safety are simple,” says Corby Kummer, executive director of Food & Society. “Wear a mask whenever you’re not taking a bite and be considerate of everyone who’s eager to welcome you back but needs to be safe in the most challenging environment and time they’ve ever faced.” 

“We at the James Beard Foundation see the Diner Code of Conduct as a common sense guide for restaurant guests to do their part in helping the industry through this crisis,” says Clare Reichenbach, CEO of the James Beard Foundation. “Throughout the pandemic, the Foundation and our Open for Good campaign has been a central resource hub for the food and restaurant community in surviving Covid, and we’re proud to add the Diner Code of Conduct to our toolkit.”

“Getting restaurants the tools they need to reopen and operate safely remains our top priority,” adds Tom Bené, president & CEO, National Restaurant Association. “The Diner Code of Conduct helps our guests know what they can do to help us stay open and continue providing safe and enjoyable dining experiences.”

The Diner Code of Conduct invites diners to do their part by following four key Covid-19 prevention practices: 1) Wear a mask at all times when not actually eating, and particularly when near all workers and everyone outside your dining companions. 2) Be nice! Mutual kindness is paramount to good hospitality, and part of that is understanding that management reserves the right to refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask. 3) Make space: keep physical distance from staff and fellow guests. And 4) Be responsible: cancel or reschedule your visit if you’ve been exposed to Covid-19 or felt symptoms in the past three days. 

Hospitality-centered messaging and ease of use are key elements of the Safety First initiative, reflected by the graphic format of the Diner Code of Conduct’s four steps, which are available in digital- and print-friendly versions (downloads available at 

“Throughout the pandemic Resy has been steadfastly focused on supporting its restaurant partners as they fight every day to sustain their business, keep their staff and guests safe, and provide for their communities,” says Victoria Vaynberg, Resy CMO. “We’ve supported restaurants with fee relief and new technology through Resy over the past several months, and are excited to now partnered with industry leaders to produce this Code Of Conduct tool to help them create a safe and comfortable environment for staff and guests to enjoy.”

Soon after lockdown and as restaurants began opening their kitchens to first serve frontline health providers and then revive their own businesses for takeout and delivery, Food & Society at the Aspen Institute teamed up with World Central Kitchen, Off Their Plate, and The James Beard Foundation to createSafety First: Serving Food and Protecting People During Covid-19. The comprehensive guidelines, which starts with a “Baker’s Dozen” of crucial steps to take for a safe working environment during the pandemic, came out in May and has been widely used and distributed in the restaurant and food-service industry. As restaurants have launched outdoor dining and begun limited indoor dining, the health of servers—and diners—become critically important. The next phase of Safety First, with fully updated guidelines focused on the front-of-the house workers, will be released in January. 

Like the Safety First publication, Diner’s Code of Conduct resources are free and available to the public due to generous financial support from Jonathan and Lizzie Tisch and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund. The next steps for Safety First will be:

Early 2021 release of Safety First’s second phase, updating comprehensive worker-safety guidelines to include servers and diners, with a strong emphasis on graphics and user-friendly format

Wide distribution of a simple five-item checklist adopted by city and state health departments to build consumer confidence and serve as a basis for Covid preparedness star ratings 

Food & Society will partner with other economic-opportunity programs to compile best practices to keep vulnerable food-services safe as they look for and return to work—both in their physical and financial health. 

Safety First: Serving Food and Protecting People During Covid-19 is available to the public at no cost. The publication is currently offered in English, Spanish, and Mandarin versions (download here).

News and information presented in this release has not been corroborated by WTWH Media LLC.