As Scotland's restaurants prepare to re-open, here are the basic ground rules all diners should know – Stephen Jardine

“A place where people pay to sit and eat meals that are cooked and served on the premises”. A dictionary definition of a restaurant is a useful reminder at the moment because it has been so long.

Four months ago, they were forced to close their doors and leave us to our own devices.

No more special meals out, no more staring at the menu unable to decide what to order, no more going for an extra side order of chips because someone will always eat them.

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Instead we’ve been confined to our kitchens, staring in the fridge for inspiration and praying lockdown is never extended to include Deliveroo. Apart from the odd takeaway and occasional restaurant-at-home experience, this has been our first taste of life without restaurants and, unless you are a Masterchef contestant, it has been grim.

Lockdown has really helped us see the wood from the trees. It turns out gyms are a waste of time. Thanks to walking, running and cycling, we are as fit as ever without spending £50 a month to be assailed by the sound of electro-dance tunes and sight of tubby, sweaty people in lycra.

Artisan coffee shops also turned out not to be the life-support machines we thought they were. It turns out we can make coffee at home, but if you really want the authentic experience you can serve it slightly cold with a scowl and charge yourself £2.50.

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And all those years we spent commuting to the office have been shown to be a total waste of time because productivity is up, plus we are spared having to listen to tales of Brian’s tedious tales of his weekend in the lift.

Restaurant customers need to understand a few basic rules like actually turning up if you make a booking, says Stephen Jardine (Picture: Victoria Jones/PA)

Only restaurants have been properly missed so, as we prepare for their return from Monday, let’s remind ourselves of some ground rules which have always been true but now really matter.

If you’ve made a reservation, then at least have the decency to turn up. With reduced capacity and so much accumulated debt, income from every table really matters. After all this, if you can’t be bothered to show up, then you really are a terrible person.

A restaurant isn’t a creche. After a year, you may well be sick of looking after the kids but restaurant staff need to concentrate on carrying hot plates and making money, not amusing infants left to roam around with bits of Lego.

If you have a genuine allergy or intolerance, then let the restaurant know in advance so they can take care of you properly. If you just like the attention of demanding banoffee pie without bananas because you “don’t like them”, then stay at home and eat cream, toffee and biscuits because that is all you deserve.

And finally, be nice. As restaurants reopen, staff and customers will be nervous and a little bit rusty. If we are patient and forgiving, it will be fine.

In exchange for the above, restaurants will offer us a delicious choice of good things to eat with ingredients we never knew existed and then wash everything up at the end of it and thanks us for coming like their jobs depend on it, which they do.

They need us and we need them so let’s agree never to take each other for granted again.

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