If, when, and how we can start eating out again is, at present, a tantalising dish, probably consisting of slippery eels. Much to the frustration of the hospitality industry, it’s been impossible to pin down politicians, be they Scottish, English, Welsh, Irish. What a nightmare this has been for chefs, restaurateurs, café owners, and publicans. How can they prepare for opening, lining up supplies, staff, and such like?

In Scotland, the latest government signals are that restaurants, hotels, and pubs could be open on July 15.

Hope is dangled, rapidly followed by ifs – Covid-19 rates must continue to fall – and buts: social distancing measures must remain in place.

As I write, the UK Office of National Statistics says that only one in 1,700 of us has the virus, and the UK coronavirus alert level has been lowered, following a steady decrease in cases.

Some take the view that restaurants nevertheless represent an avoidable risk. Although they acknowledge the disastrous impact shunning them could have on the livelihoods of those who work in hospitality, they put their health first.

Some of these people have already decided that they won’t feel safe enough to dine out for the rest of 2020.

Age isn’t necessarily the defining factor in this decision – 60% of those aged over 70 want to get back out to restaurants, according to a survey of 8,266 members of Tastecard, the UK’s largest dining club.

It also found that 44% of people plan to continue dining out as frequently as before, while 11% even plan to dine out more.

Looking specifically at Scotland, over 3,700 restaurant-goers were surveyed earlier this month by 5pm.co.uk, Glasgow’s booking-based website, and simpleERB.com, the restaurant booking management system.

When asked, “How often did you visit a restaurant in the 12 months prior to lockdown?” 60% said “Several times” and 8% said “Several times a week”. And when asked, “How likely are you to visit a restaurant when they re-open?”, 60% said “Extremely likely” and 21% “Very likely”. Only 5% said “Not very likely” or “Not at all likely”.

So, the appetite of enthusiastic restaurant-goers, the regular clientele that has kept many restaurants going in the past, has not significantly waned. This confirms my personal observation that many people who feel that they ought not visit restaurants were never big eaters out to start with, before coronavirus.

So, for those of us counting the days until we can have a nice brunch, lunch, or dinner out again, what matters? We definitely want to see hand sanitising stations (90%).

I’d add here, that restaurants might consider a simple soap and hand basin point near the entry, as is common in India. Partitions between customers were welcomed by 63%. With some thoughtful design, such screens could feel little different from the perennially popular booth-style dining, which gives a sense of intimacy. Though I’m not sure the sort of plexiglass bubbles seen in our photograph would be welcomed by everyone.

And don’t forget that even sidestepping the thorny issue of whether the measure for physical distancing should be two or one metres, you can take for granted that most restaurants in Scotland will be quiet at lunchtime. So having plenty space at lunch at least need not be a concern.

And 56% of respondents favoured temperature checks for staff. This is easy to do and a good idea anyway.

I have complained loudly in the past about being served by people with stinking colds who have probably struggled into work because the management would dock their pay otherwise. That narrow-sighted practice is long overdue for a change. Temperature checks of customers and face masks, on the other hand, were favoured by just under half of respondents.

They weren’t so concerned about staff wearing gloves (39%), or face shields (25%). A recognition, it seems, that post-Covid19, we don’t want our restaurant outings to be as sterile as a visit to the dentist.

Hearteningly, the survey picked up a willingness amongst customers to help restaurateurs operate as profitably as possible in these difficult circumstances – 75% of those polled said they “definitely” or “probably” would pre-order their food, and 85% were prepared to limit their time at the table to let restaurateurs take more customers throughout the day.

You see, we cherish our restaurants, and want to see them bounce back.