After months of restaurants having to shutter their dining areas in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, regulations are now easing and operators across the country are going through the process of reopening their restaurants.
However, as we continue to navigate a world in which a pandemic is still very much prevalent, reopening your restaurant isn’t as simple as flipping over your “We’re open!” sign and going back to “business as usual.” From an operational standpoint, there’s a lot to consider.
To help you through this uncertain time and ensure that your restaurant reopening is a successful one, here’s a framework for best practices that focus on food safety, cleaning and sanitizing, social distancing, personal hygiene, and employee health and monitoring.
Whenever possible, restaurants must keep guests and staff at least six feet away from each other. This could mean reorganizing your dining areas to ensure tables and bar stools are over six feet apart. It could also mean providing physical guides, like tape on floors or sidewalks, to ensure that customers remain six feet apart in lines while waiting to dine.
And don’t be afraid to get creative with how you approach social distancing. Take Fish Tales Bar & Grill, for example. To help customers understand social distancing, this Ocean City, Maryland-based restaurant brought in bumper car-style tables. If patrons get too close to each other, they’ll experience a slight bump, indicating that they’ve hit the six-foot limit.
Health and Safety
If an employee happens to get infected with COVID-19 unknowingly, face masks help to protect others from contracting the virus as well, which ultimately helps to slow how far it spreads.
Also, employees should wear gloves to avoid direct bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods and all non-disposable food service items. Further recommendations direct employees to wear gloves when in contact with customers or goods.
Require your employees to frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Handwashing should be done after every time employees handle food, touch high-traffic areas, cough, sneeze, use the restroom, or handle garbage. And be sure to increase monitoring to ensure adherence.
Instruct employees who are displaying cold- or flu-like systems to stay home, or send them home immediately. Establish procedures for safely transporting anyone sick to their home or to a healthcare facility.
Tell employees who have fallen ill to self-isolate for seven days from the onset of symptoms. And inform those who have had close contact to a person diagnosed with COVID-19 to stay home, and self-monitor for symptoms.
If possible, notify local health officials, staff, and customers of any possible case of COVID-19. But be sure to maintain confidentiality that’s consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other applicable federal and state privacy laws.
Ensure the person in charge of foodservice is a certified food safety manager, and provide proper food handler training to refresh employees.
When possible, offer customers disposable utensils and single-serve condiments, like ketchup packets, rather than shared condiment squeeze bottles. If disposable items aren’t feasible, ensure that all non-disposable foodservice items are handled with gloves, and wash them according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Code requirements.
Wherever possible, assign a staff member to attend the self-service drink stations. Make sure to remove lemons and unwrapped straws from these stations as well.
Where salad bars and buffets are permitted, have sneeze guards in place. Change, wash, and sanitize utensils frequently, and place appropriate barriers in open areas.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
First, make sure that the sanitizers and disinfectants you use meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2.
Wash, rinse, and sanitize all food contact surfaces, food prep surfaces, and beverage equipment after use. High-touch areas, such as equipment handles, order kiosks, and door knobs, should be frequently cleaned and disinfected as well.
To maintain frequent cleaning practices, develop a disinfection schedule or routine plan,. Aand make sure to always have sufficient stocks of supplies to accommodate the tasks.ongoing cleaning and disinfection.
Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly, and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by, for instance, opening windows and doors. However, do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety risk to employees, children, or customers.
Technologies, such as contactless payment systems and mobile-optimized online ordering solutions, can help you conduct business with reduced need for close contact.
OneDine, for example, is innovating a number of solutions for touch-free ordering and payment to ensure the safety of restaurant team members and guests.
Our suite of offerings include:
- Mobile menu browsing
- Contactless ordering and payment
- On-premise guest-side ordering
- A complete off-premise solution
Not every restaurant is the same, so not every reopening scenario will align. But these tips and recommendations should help your restaurant transition into a new operational framework that will help you navigate the new normals brought on by the current health crisis.