10 Safety Practices For Ordering Takeout (During A Pandemic)

Here's how to order out with total peace of mind...

Food & Drink

I don't know about y'all, but pretty much everyone in my world has been ordering takeout more than usual, ever since this coronavirus pandemic has become a part of our daily lives. What's really a trip about that is, it's not like most of us didn't make doing that a part of our lifestyle routine anyway, being that 60 percent of us were out here ordering delivery or takeout way before the Rona hit. Yet with all of the constantly changing information that's out here, I would totally understand if you're wondering how much of a risk that you're actually taking by hitting up your favorite restaurant so that they can send you something that you've been craving.

As with all things concerning this virus, the key is to be as knowledgeable as possible while not going into a state of panic. While it has pretty much always been holistically healthier to cook your own meals (check out "Why You Should Consider Leaving Fast Food Alone"), there are steps that you can take to insure that you are protecting you, your family and the delivery person, if you decide to bring some "outside food" in.

1. Avoid Peak Ordering Hours


There are a couple of benefits that come with not waiting until peak ordering hours to get your food. One is that you won't have to wait forever (because a lot of restaurants don't have the same amount of staff that they did before the pandemic started) and two, if you decide to go the carryout route, you will be able to avoid coming into contact with as many people.

(If you don't know what a restaurant's busiest hours are, call them before ordering your food. Oh, and if you're wondering what restaurants are currently making deliveries, check out "60 Deals & Delivery Services To Get You Through COVID-19 Quarantine".)

2. Disinfect Your Screen Door


While this step might seem like you're being "extra", choose to see it as a way of being proactively kind and courteous to the one who will be bringing your food to you.

While it would be ideal if the delivery person simply called or texted to let you know that your food is in front of your door or one the porch (more on that in a sec), if they do happen to knock on the door, do them a solid by disinfecting your screen door and door handle before they arrive.

At the time that I'm writing this, it's not a mandate that everyone wear masks and gloves, so it only takes five minutes to make sure that the person bringing your food to you is extra protected. Something like Simple Green® CLEAN FINISH® Disinfectant Cleaner should do the trick.

3. Sign Receipts with Your Own Pen


There really is no telling how many people touch things like a single pen over the course of a day. So yeah, avoid coming into contact with germs unnecessarily by using your own pen to sign takeout receipts.

4. See If Deliveries (and Your Tip) Can Be Left at the Door


These days, when ordering online, there is becoming less of a need to interact with your delivery person at all. For instance, there are usually notes, in the form of special requests, that you can leave online while placing an order about where you'd like your food to be dropped off. If it can be placed at the door without any human interaction, that's awesome. Speaking of, if for some reason, it is a restaurant's policy to get your signature on a receipt or they typically have people write in how much they want to tip their delivery person, ask if there is anyway to bypass this. The more that you can do with your debit or credit card, the less you'll be putting yourself at (potential) risk.

5. Tip Your Deliverer Well


I once read an article that said, on average, food delivery drivers make somewhere between $8-19 an hour. Not bad if you're just looking to make a few extra bucks, but pretty low if you're working to make ends meet and you're basically putting your life on the line to do it.

Because restaurants are doing their best to stay afloat, we are able to still keep a certain sense of normalcy by enjoying some of our favorite foods without having to go out and get them. That deserves the "thank you" in the form of more than a standard 10-15 percent tip, if you ask me. You can also donate to relief fund organizations that are helping out restaurants, bars and food service workers. You can check out more on that here and here. Whatever you decide to do, please be generous. We're all trying to stay afloat right now.

6. Keep Carryout Off of Your Surfaces


Not to get you all paranoid or anything, but you really don't know where food containers and bags are stored or who's been touching on them prior to them arriving at your house. Just to be on the super safe side, avoid placing the carryout bags directly onto your kitchen counters. Instead, put a towel or some paper towels on your counters first. Use gloves to remove the food from the bags and then immediately throw the bags out (preferably into your trashcan outside) once you've taken all of the food out. Do not touch your face, for any reason, while you're doing this.

7. Wash Your Hands Immediately After Removing Food from Packaging


Once the food is out of the bags and the bags have been disposed of, it's important to wash your hands for 20-30 seconds with soap and warm water. While there has yet to be evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted through food (let's all make sure to keep it on our prayer list that it never does), what we do know is it can live on surfaces including containers and utensils (reportedly for 1-3 hours). So, you want to make sure that your hands are as clean as possible after touching on stuff that your food came in. This brings us to the next point.

8. Reheat Food in Your Own Containers


If you're anything like me and you enjoy your food when it's about as hot as you can stand it, avoid reheating your food in the containers that they came in because, remember, someone handled before you did. It's best to immediately put the food in your own containers and to toss the delivery ones out as well (which yeah, basically means washing your hands just one more time). The other reason why you should do this is because you never know if the containers happen to contain harmful chemicals like BPA; the less you have to worry about, the better.

Oh, and I'm hoping that since I'm sharing that it's not a good idea to reheat in your delivery containers that it's a given to not eat straight out of them. It's kinda hard to eat out of something without touching it. Feel me?

9. Consider Eating Outdoors


Yes, most of us are living in Safer at Home status at this point, but no one said that you can't go outside. If you live in a house or a townhome (that has a yard) it can do you some good to get out of the walls of your home and go outside; not just for a change of scenery but for some fresh air too. Since indoor air pollution is 2-5 times higher than outdoor air pollution, it could do you some real good to have a little picnic, a couple of times a week.

10. Don’t Leave Your Leftovers Out


Food poisoning sucks and since hospitals are being pushed to their absolute limit as it is, you want to avoid getting it as much as possible. One way to do that is to make sure that you don't leave whatever food is leftover out for too long. How long is "too long"? Two hours. Also, make sure that whenever you do reheat your leftovers, you do it at a temperature that's around 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

BONUS: Support Those Who Are Lookin’ Out


Thankfully, as if this month, "Federal law mandates new paid leave requirements for restaurant workers affected by coronavirus". But there are restaurants who are going above and beyond the bare minimum (and paid sick leave is definitely a bare minimum). Starbucks actually offers "catastrophe pay" (two weeks on top of their standard two-week sick pay) for employees who've been diagnosed with coronavirus. Recently KFC donated $400,000 to Blessings in a Backpack which is a non-profit that gives weekend meals to hungry kids, free of charge while Taco Bell donated $1 million to No Kid Hungry, a campaign that also feeds children. Domino's is donating million of slices of pizza to essential workers and school children. Several restaurants in New York are making free meals for hospital workers. I also want to give a big shout-out to Houston-based chef and restaurateur Jonathan "Jonny" Rhodes for recently turning his restaurant Indigo into a grocery store for low-income families (ain't nothin' like a good Black man, y'all!). I also found David Cabello's new app Black and Mobile to be a cool addition for such a time as this.

Other chains are being proactive about taking less money out of our pockets. For instance, if you use Burger King's app, they will give you two free kids meals with a regular order. TGIF Friday is giving a free kid's meal for every order over $20. Olive Garden has a two-for-the-price-of-one promotion. Several chains are offering free delivery (read more on what other chains are doing here). Figuring out the restaurants in your area who are helping their workers, you and the community and then ordering from them first is a great way of saying "I see you and I appreciate you" as they try and keep their doors open.

Do you feel a little better (and safer) now? Good. Now how about getting off of here and ordering you something to eat? With all that's going on right now, you deserve it.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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