Dining out: the new rules for Canadian restaurants

7 min read
Anastasia Dvorak

UPDATE: This post was originally published on 28 July 2020 and updated on 27 January 2021.

As we get used to many more businesses reopening, it is clear that we have greatly missed going out to all of our favourite restaurants and food spots! However, the dining experience won't look the same as it used to. Here are the new rules Canadian restaurants will have to stick to for some time.

Editor’s note: If you don’t already have a website, now’s the time to get one. Bring new customers into your restaurant or cafe with Websites + Marketing. Fast, easy, free.

Rules that apply to all Canadian restaurants

Here are the rules that apply to restaurants in ALL Canadian provinces and territories:

  1. Employees and customers must stay home if they are not feeling well or have COVID-19 symptoms.

2. Food service businesses must create operational plans to meet all cleaning and disinfecting guidelines. They’re also expected to post signs around proper hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene and physical distancing.

3. Frequently-touched surfaces and common areas (door handles, entryways, elevators, washrooms, and kitchen) must be thoroughly sanitized as often as necessary.

4. Personal hygiene resources must be provided including:

  • Hot/cold potable running water, liquid soap, paper towels and garbage bins for handwashing OR minimum 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper, cleaning and disinfecting supplies
  • Non-medical masks and disposable gloves

5. Patrons must maintain a physical distance of two meters from each other. The number of customers entering the premises must be controlled with traffic flow markings and barriers.

6. Only a certain number of people may enter a business at a time (except in Newfoundland and Labrador).

7. Cashless payment methods are encouraged where possible (except in Alberta).

8. It is important to limit the number of people working in one space to prevent large gatherings (except in Yukon).

Here are short summaries of the additional rules restaurants in each province/territory must adhere to. While these details were up-to-date as of this writing, you’ll want to check the links provided below for the latest changes in your province/territory.


Check for the latest updates

Restaurants, bars, and cafes have been closed for dine-in services since December 2020, but takeout, curbside pickup, and deliveries are allowed.

British Columbia

Check for the latest updates

British Columbia is currently in Stage 3 of reopening, which allows restaurants, cafes and pubs to operate with social distancing measures in place and some modifications.

Waitress Holding Two Flights of Beer Samples

For example, these have been eliminated:

  • Morning huddles
  • In-person meetings
  • Hand-to-hand contact with customers (handshakes, fist bumps, high-fives, etc.)

It’s also suggested that customers pour their own water from water bottles or jugs on the table.

Instead of using traditional menus, BC restaurants are encouraged to use digital menu boards, single-use disposable menus, large chalkboards, or online pre-ordering alternatives.


Check for the latest updates

Manitoba is also in Phase 3 of its reopening plan. Restaurants, bars and other food establishments are allowed to operate patio and dine-in services at full occupancy as long as they make sure members of the public are reasonably able to maintain a separation of at least two metres from each other. That can be done by rearranging the seating and tables to maintain the distance or by introducing barriers between dining parties.

New Brunswick

Check for the latest updates

New Brunswick is currently in the “Yellow level” of reopening. There are four levels in New Brunswick’s COVID-19 reopening plan:

  • Red
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Green

Dining establishments and bars were already allowed to open during the “Orange level” as long as social distancing rules were strictly adhered to (in addition to standard COVID-19 guidelines).

Man Wearing a Mask Putting Food in a Thermal Bag

Newfoundland and Labrador

Check for the latest updates

Newfoundland and Labrador is at Alert Level 2 of its reopening plan.

Buffets and other self-serve options such as hot dog displays, shared condiment dispensers and ice cream bars are not permitted.

All restaurants, bars and lounges are able to reopen at reduced capacity with physical distancing measures in place for both staff and customers.

Northwest Territories

Check for the latest updates

The Northwest Territories is currently in Relaxing Phase 2: Next Steps of its reopening plan. In this phase, dine-in restaurants, lounges and bars may reopen, but must have no more than 25 customers (including staff).

Live music and dance floors are currently prohibited. In some cases, a business may apply for a relaxation permit to seat more customers, as long as all the COVID-19 measures are in place.

Nova Scotia

Check for the latest updates

Nova Scotia is one of the few provinces that doesn’t have a structured, phased approach to reopening. The province is allowing businesses to operate as long as strict COVID-19 guidelines are closely followed. Restaurants, bars and other dining options are allowed to open as long as they stay on track.


Check for latest updates

Nunavut has developed a plan that follows low-, medium- and high-risk measures as the restrictions are eased.

Restaurants and bars are considered medium-risk, and are currently open with COVID-19 guidelines in place.

Nunavut will be making decisions every two weeks on whether or not to further ease restrictions, so check the link above regularly.


Check for the latest updates

As of December 2020, restaurants, bars, and cafes have been ordered closed for dine-in services. Takeout, curbside pickup, and deliveries are still allowed.

Note: It is possible to expand the outdoor dining spaces for licensed establishments without an application fee to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

Prince Edward Island

Check for the latest updates

Prince Edward Island is currently in Phase 4 of its reopening plan. Restaurants are allowed to open with six patrons per table at a time, with tables spaced at least six feet apart.

Waiter Holding Two Plates of Food in One Hand

There should be no more than 50 people at the restaurant at a time.

It is interesting to note that there was no requirement set for how far apart chairs need to be, and there are also no restrictions on who can sit together.

Some PEI restaurants have mandatory sanitation stations and a sign-in sheet that needs to be filled out before entering (for the purposes of contact tracing).

Related: Does your business need a liability waiver?


Check for the latest updates

Restaurants, bars, and cafes have been closed for dine-in services since December 2020 in the province of Quebec, but takeout, curbside pickup, and deliveries are allowed.


Check for the latest updates

Saskatchewan officially moved into Phase 4 reopening as of July 6.

Restaurants, bars/nightclubs, lounges, food courts, cafeterias, cafés, bistros and similar facilities can increase to a capacity level that allows staff and customers to maintain two metres of physical distancing.

These guidelines apply to both indoor and outdoor seating areas.


Check for the latest updates

Yukon entered Phase 2 of its reopening plan on July 2, 2002. Restaurants are now able to provide dine-in/take-out services at 100% capacity, as long as physical distancing can be maintained.

Make sure you’re ready

While it is everyone’s goal to return to the way things used to be as soon as possible, it is important to remember that this might be our “new normal” for some time.

Restaurants are reopening with many new restrictions in place, and these measures will most likely continue for the foreseeable future, so it's best to get used to them.

The good news is we are finally getting some elements of comfort back in our lives. Order up!

Information was accurate as of publication date. Please check provincial or territory websites for the latest information.