Let’s be honest — after 18 months of non-stop reading about masks and listening to reports about virus-containing aerosol particles, we all feel like we’re brilliant epidemiologists. Of course, most of us aren’t epidemiologists. Heck, most of us didn’t even know what “epidemiology” was before the pandemic started back in those fuzzy early 2020 days.

But, as we’ve sorted through all of the science talk and case studies, it has become increasingly crystal clear that it is substantially safer to dine or hold gatherings in the fresh air of the great outdoors. Before the Delta wave, the New York Times wrote how experts felt that less than 1 percent of transmission seemed to have happened outside and they surely feel the same even with Delta here. 

In short, there’s a reason why indoor gatherings and indoor dining seem to always be the main choice of rules and guidelines for county public health departments. That’s where the trouble is often lurking with limited ventilation and often close confines for diners. The public health consensus across the world has been made abundantly clear: go outside. That’s why the city of San Francisco will require individuals to be vaccinated for indoor dining and other indoor activities starting on August 20th.

And even still during these Delta Days, there’s always a higher chance for breakthrough infections when dining indoors than in the fresh air because wind (something San Francisco has quite a lot of) can break up the particles, as this quick NPR interview transcript succinctly points out. 

To stay safe and still enjoy your life, the answer is simple: stay outside

This Washington Post article from earlier this year points out that beaches and parks are some of the safer choices for fun and fresh air as the pandemic continues (unlike a crowded baseball game or sidewalk patio or concert). And, so, we’d be remiss to point out that Off the Grid’s mobile food gatherings each week are often in parks or spacious, very open outdoor areas.

When you’re visiting Off the Grid at the likes of Levi’s Plaza or Leo Ryan Park in Foster City, they have much more free space for maintaining distance and being outside than almost all restaurants’ outdoor dining setups simply because they are large outdoor open spaces or actual parks. There is no confined seating arrangement necessary. 

Beyond spacing, Off the Grid staff is fully vaccinated and also always wears masks. Even though Covid-19 transmission appears to almost entirely be airborne, Off the Grid still takes extra precautions with frequent surface cleaning, contactless payment is always available, and plenty of hand sanitizer is (ahem) on hand because.

Last year, the United States Census Bureau even mentioned food trucks-in-the-pandemic safety in a story about the enormous growth of food trucks before the pandemic and how they’re a great socially distant dining solution today. Indeed, most of Off the Grid’s creators are food trucks, along with some portable stands and other mobile formats. They’re all outside and way safer than an enclosed restaurant or a crowded patio. 

Food trucks make events and gatherings still possible, despite increasing restrictions.

This San Francisco Chronicle article talked with Off the Grid founder Matt Cohen about how the mobile food gatherings started in 2010 after another major global event — the 2008 Financial Crisis. The article also discusses how now really is the moment for this type of alfresco dining — not just for safety but also adding a previously missing character to the streets, parks and plazas of the Bay Area. 

Off the Grid gatherings also aren’t strictly just for a great lunch or dinner with you and your family. As companies start (and stop and start again) to bring employees together again, we’re slowly seeing the return of conferences, company off-sites and once-a-quarter substantial-sized company gatherings that replace frequent all-hands meetings. With companies pivoting to partially or fully working from home, these types of less frequent, more substantial gatherings are only going to become more common, so everything isn’t completely done virtually and remotely. 

Without lots of workers in offices, companies are scaling down their cafeteria options. That means outdoor catering is the name of the big company meeting game these days, and the creators working with Off the Grid already know about serving for large audiences (did you ever see the peak summer crowds at the Fort Mason gatherings or Presidio Picnic?!). They know how to cook food for a crowd. And that delicious food, by the way — there’s a reason that some of these food trucks like Al Pastor Papi and Señor Sisig are some of the most iconic names in Bay Area dining.

So, as we navigate the challenges of this pandemic now for a second summer and fall season, we all need some delicious food to perk us up, and we also need to keep remembering the importance of enjoying fresh air with our meals when we’re away from home. Together, at places like Off the Grid events, we can safely dine and have fun, and hopefully soon we won’t constantly be talking about masks and epidemiology.

By Trevor Felch