How To Avoid Sickness When Eating Out This Winter

The season of colds, flu and COVID-19 is upon us. As widespread transfer of new Omicron variants raises warnings of a new wave, cafes and restaurants are reporting a worrying decline in patronage.

Des Huynh, owner of Rudimentary in Melbourne’s Footscray, reports “a marked decline” in numbers over the past two weeks.

“It’s actually been very difficult,” he says.

Despite the cold weather, customers dine outside at Rudimentary in Footscray.

Despite the cold weather, customers dine outside at Rudimentary in Footscray. Photo: Simon Schluter



While the general manager of Bondi restaurant Da Orazio, Christian Poddine, says more diners have expressed concern about rising COVID numbers when calling to cancel reservations.

“Right now, the main reason I’m hearing for cancellations is COVID,” he says.

‘There is nothing you can do about it. There is always something.’

While the decision to eat out ultimately comes down to a personal assessment of the risk, experts advise that there are ways to minimize the chance of serious infection in your favorite cafes and restaurants this winter.

“I think we should still encourage people to eat out and support local industry,” said Professor Ben Marais, co-director of the University of Sydney Institute for Infectious Diseases.

“If you’re in a low-risk category and you’ve done everything you can to protect yourself… the risk is exceptionally small, even in a busy restaurant.

“But there are some important considerations if you want to do it safely.”

Marais recommends sitting outside whenever possible, as increased airflow reduces the risk of airway transmission. Outdoor seating has become a popular option for dinners at Rudimentary, where a repurposed shipping container opens onto a leafy garden.

“When the sun is out, 90 percent of people want to sit outside,” Hyunh says. “People just feel more comfortable outside now, it feels safer.”

At the Hotel Jesus dining establishment in Collingwood, restaurant manager Tom Dalton chose to leave some tables outside when rearranging seating for the winter.

“Normally we wouldn’t because it’s nicer to sit inside when it’s cold, but we want to make sure everyone feels comfortable and safe,” says Dalton.

“Since the last lockdown, we have definitely noticed an increase in people who want to sit outside, even when the weather is not so good.

“It’s really essential to have that option.”

Since the start of the pandemic, there has been an influx of new restaurants with outdoor seating.

Whalebridge, a French bistro on Circular Quay, is a notable example for its 260 alfresco seats – enhanced by an army of blankets and gas stoves.

Meanwhile, Bryony and Harry Lancaster are working on winterizing outdoor seating at their Eveleigh cafe, Egg of the Universe.

“We’re really lucky to have an outdoor space that overlooks a lot of beautiful greenery,” says Bryony. “All outdoor tables have blankets and we will be installing heaters soon.”

Nutritionist Elizabeth Pattalis says alfresco dining can also help protect against respiratory ailments.

“Eating out is actually a good thing because it allows us to get our daily dose of vitamin D, which helps boost our immune system,” she says.

Where outdoor dining isn’t possible, Professor Marais recommends choosing a table near an open window or a secluded corner far from the entrance.

“Instead of sitting in a room where everything is too warm and cozy, we should get used to the idea of ​​keeping our coats on and keeping our windows open. Any airflow reduces the risk,” Marais says.

“But sitting by the door is probably not a good idea, because a lot more people will pass your table.

“You’d better sit in a secluded corner: COVID is a fairly thin virus that doesn’t stay in the air for long.”

What to order to ward off sickness this winter?

It’s “absolutely possible” to maintain a healthy diet and strong immune system when you eat out, says registered nutritionist Teresa Kryger.

“I recommend that my customers check the menu for certain dishes before they leave,” says Kryger.

bone broth

Bone broth dishes are highly recommended for their high content of glutamine and amino acids.

Soulla Chamberlain, owner of Bone Broth Bar and Larder in Bronte, says a good bone broth can “bring back the dead.”

“It can hit a cold on the head,” she says.

Chamberlain also offers “immune-boosting flavor bombs,” or soup additives, which contain antiviral ingredients such as garlic and turmeric.

Fermented ingredients

Kryger says dishes with fermented ingredients like kimchi, sauerkraut, or miso are great choices because of their ability to support gut function.

“If people are new to fermented foods, or find the idea of ​​sauerkraut a little off-putting, a good old reuben sandwich can be a good place to start,” she says.

Fermentation plays an important role at the Northcote health cafe Shoku Inu, where owner and chef Yoko Inoue recently turned amazake (a traditional Japanese drink made from fermented rice) into ice.

“I found that most health-focused cafes weren’t really inspiring. It was always the same, like avocado on toast,” says Inu.

“I wanted to create a space where people felt comfortable and safe, but also inspired to try new ingredients.”

Orange food

Egg of the Universe co-owner Harry Lancaster says it’s a misconception that healthy eating should be “bland and without fun.” At his Sydney cafe in Eveleigh, the breakfast bowl is bursting with color from sweet potatoes, carrots and buttered kale.

“Orange foods are high in beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, which is essential for a strong immune system,” Lancaster says.