While COVID-19 is not a foodborne illness, food safety is more important than ever. Trust20’s food safety recommendations align directly with guidelines from Federal, State, and local health departments on how to prep, store, and serve your food. Make sure all relevant health and food safety certifications and trainings are up to date.
Sanitizing food surfaces isn’t a new behavior, but its relevance is more important than ever. In the back-of-house, retrain employees for consistent sanitization routines of food contact surfaces such as dishware, utensils, food preparation surfaces, and beverage equipment after use. In the front-of-house, surfaces should be sanitized after use wherever food comes into contact with a customer such as dining tables or menus. Consider hiring or assigning a specific staff member to solely focus on maintaining a clean restaurant.
For high-touch, non-food surfaces around the restaurant, disinfectants help limit transmission of bacteria and viruses. Disinfect door knobs, light switches, restrooms, and other commonly-touched areas. Consider hiring or assigning a specific staff member to solely focus on maintaining a clean restaurant.
Keeping your restaurant clean is not a new concept, however in the era of COVID-19, it’s more top of mind for many consumers. Diners have higher expectations for cleanliness now, so a mindset of “continuous cleaning” is more important than ever. Continuous cleaning might look different for restaurants of different sizes and types, but it’s imperative to re-evaluate your current cleaning protocols and possibly put new ones in place.
There is minimal state or federal policy on the topic but it’s possible your HVAC setup affects COVID-19 transmission. For specific guidance on how to optimize your situation, check with your HVAC consultant. Outdoor seating and patio options might be a helpful short-term solution.
Add sanitizing stations to your entrance, and throughout your restaurant if possible. Encourage proper handwashing through signs in your restrooms and back-of-house. Provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol throughout the restaurant.
The restaurant's physical space influences how diners behave, interact, and eat. This tactic focuses on limiting capacity based on local legal limits, thoughtfully creating different diner zones, and rearranging furniture for social distancing. Understand the options and legality of your restaurant capacity or dine-in, patio, and/or outdoor seating based on your city and state. Some cities require reduced dine-in capacity by 25-100%.
To help regulate dine-in capacity, operate your restaurant with a reservation-only model or a digital waiting list. If a digital reservation system doesn't work for you, make it very clear to customers how your restaurant will operate, allow or not allow people in. Where possible, create a separate designated entry and exit to minimize congregation in the lobby/waiting area. Make mask use mandatory for all diner interactions aside from sitting and eating.
Self-service areas like beverage and condiment stations, salad bars, and buffets create unnecessary risk of contact between customers. Discontinue or remove access to these areas. Use pre-rolled silverware and individual condiment packages ensure no shared contact as tables turn. In bathrooms, consider installing door kickstands, touchless toilets, automatic faucets, and touchless/disposable towel dispensers (recommended, but not required). Do not accept reusable bags or containers that would be handled by the staff. Don't touch water glasses or coffee cups when refilling glasses.
Digital ordering and payment is safer, often cheaper, a preference for customers, and an opportunity for the restaurant to consolidate technologies. For ordering, there are a range of contactless options: from disinfecting reusable menus between uses or disposable paper menus to digital menu boards in the restaurant or accessible from a smartphone. For payment, going cashless, emailing receipts, running credits cards at the table, and mobile wallets limit the contact required at payment. Work with your POS provider to set-up contactless methods such as Google or Apple Pay.For menus, consider creating a digital QR code that connects to your website, a digital menu, or a PDF version of your options.
Social distancing is not just for your dine-in customers - it’s also for your takeout customers and delivery orders. No-contact solutions are the best options for employees, delivery drivers, and customers. Space out pick-up times through online reservations, implement text alerts, and designate a safe pickup zone for all third parties and customers. This all establishes a safe process that’s clear and efficient. Consider contacting a representative at your third-party delivery partner to ask about the food safety certifications of their drivers.
Your staff are interacting with many customers every day. PPE will help prevent transmission between your staff and your customers. Provide face masks to all employees and require them to wear them throughout their shift. If it’s feasible (and relevant) for your restaurant, install plexiglass dividers at checkout, ordering, etc. to protect your staff and diners from potential transmission.
In terms of timing, this could look like staggered schedules between an “A team” and a “B team" for start times, shifts, breaks, and lunch times. In terms of spacing, increase space between workstations where possible. When physical space cannot be increased, or schedules adjusted, adjust roles and responsibilities so close interactions happen between a minimum number of people.
To comply with the health department, your restaurant has at least one handwashing station. Use them. The new standard operating procedure is Mandatory handwashing between tasks for the entire staff.. Soap and hot water for 20 seconds, as per the CDC’s guidelines. It’s also crucial to clearly communicate the rationale and importance of this to the team.
Every day when employees arrive, have employees complete a verbal or written health screening questionnaire for signs of illness. Buy a contactless thermometer to read forehead temperatures for signs of illness. Appoint a health and safety point person for every shift to ensure protocols are being adhered to and education is being provided.
Should an employee show signs of sickness, follow the CDC’s recommendations of having them go home. While it only applies to full-time employees, mandatory paid sick leave for Coronavirus-related illness became federal law through Dec ‘20 at companies with fewer than 500 employees. Be sure to communicate with your employees and follow up with the sick employee. Consult your local health department for guidance on communication to your community.
In these unprecedented times, the range of beliefs on health and safety affects the attitudes and actions of diners walking in the door. Additionally, different types of restaurants in various cities approach their health precautions differently. The local and state mandates need to be considered in this decision-making. To minimize conflict and promote team unity, preemptive conversations and communication are a must. Management and staff need to mutually agree and talk about expectations of acceptable (and unacceptable) dining behaviors and how to deal with seemingly unhealthy customers.
In public spaces like restaurants, individual health and safety measures matter now more than ever. Communicate to diners the new expectations. This includes sanitizing or washing hands before entry, wearing a mask, and social distancing between themselves and staff. If your restaurant is taking diners’ temperatures, communicate this to them before they arrive. The more they know before they dine with you, the better – and safer. Communication can be online (e.g. website or social media), physical (e.g. signage on front door or waiting area) and in-person (reemphasized by an employee).
If diners are aware of how a restaurant operationally functions in this "new normal," their decision to visit becomes a lot more approachable. To lower that barrier to entry, communicate the following: new service models (takeout/delivery vs. dine-in, limited indoor vs. outdoor); new reservation system; menu, ordering, and payment processes; diner traffic flow; and waiting expectations
Getting a handle on who enters and exits your space is important to help control the health and safety of your physical environment. For dine-in restaurants this may mean requiring reservations for all parties or having a physical (voluntary) logbook of patrons. For others, this may mean have single points of entry and exit to control who enters/exits and separation for distinct activities (e.g. pick-up vs. dine-in). Having this knowledge will not only help prevent issues in your space, but will help you respond in a clear and targeted fashion should one arise (e.g. positive Covid test of patron).