The restaurant and foodservice industry has been one of the most badly affected by COVID-19. Once a flourishing industry with many small and medium establishments holding their own against bigger, more established restaurant chains in major cities like New York and Los Angeles, it has now been decimated as one in six restaurants in the country closed down as a direct result of the pandemic.
Many states in the country might have eased restrictions for dine-in restaurants, but the threat of COVID-19 remains. It is crucial that food establishments implement transmission prevention measures because it can be very easy for the virus to spread, especially inside food establishments that offer on-site dining.
High Risk of Transmission Inside Restaurants
Dine-in customers take off their masks to eat and talk with their companions. They cannot help but get in contact with different surfaces (e.g., chairs, tables, serving trays, cutlery, beverage bottles, bathroom doorknobs, bathroom facilities). Customers are forced to interact directly with strangers like the host, waiters, servers, cashier, and sanitation staff, too.
There’s also the risk of dining at the same time as other customers who refuse to wear masks or disregard the basic rules for social distancing and would stand less than six feet away from another customer.
As an owner, manager, or supervisor for a restaurant or fast food, opening your establishment during a pandemic is accepting the responsibility of ensuring the safety of every single person inside your business premises. This means
Coronavirus Prevention Best Practices
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) released a Food Safety Checklist for food establishments early in 2020. It is a list of yes/no questions that inform owners and restaurant employees what they need to do to keep their employees and guests safe at all times.
The checklist essentially lists the following best practices for COVID-19 prevention in restaurant dining rooms:
- Post informative signs about proper handwashing, 6-feet distancing, and other best practices for coronavirus prevention at the individual level.
- Provide sanitation and disinfection products for customers.
- Clean and disinfect all tables and chairs before and after customers use them.
- Clean and disinfect the dining area, restrooms, kitchens, and outdoor seating and waiting areas regularly.
- Reduce the number of tables or available seats to ensure that all customers are six feet apart from each other.
- Use digital, contactless temperature readers to screen every customer that walks into your customer.
- Avoid physical contact with suppliers’ drivers and delivery crew when they arrive with supplies.
- Properly store and protect food packaging supplies to avoid contamination.
- Train all employees and personnel on coronavirus prevention best practices.
- Require all employees to wear proper PPE, especially those who are customer-facing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also released its own set of best practices for bar and restaurant operators. Even though the CDC recommends that establishments should implement SOPs based on their local regulations, the department has given the following must-do’s for bars and restaurants that remain operational today:
- Educate employees about the nature of the virus and why they should stay home if they show symptoms of COVID-19.
- Send employees home if they show COVID-19 symptoms or test positive for the virus.
- Use tools and materials that allow contactless interactions between employees and customers, as well as reduce direct interactions between employees and suppliers. Examples of these are Elakeside products like hands-free, hand sanitizer dispensers, food tray dispensers, CLAY-Go dispensers, wheeled utility carts, and more.
- All staff must wear masks while on the premises. Masks effectively block the spray of mucus and saliva when a wearer coughs or sneezes, and health authorities confirm that it can reduce the spread of viruses including COVID-19 — by 65%, according to UC Davis Children’s Hospital.
- Employees must wear disposable gloves when handling used food service items, cleaning, disinfecting tables and other surfaces, and throwing out trash.
- Employees must observe best practices if they sneeze or cough (into their masks or the inside of their elbows) and immediately wash their hands with soap and water.
- Provide trash cans that can be opened with foot pedals.
- Install physical barriers in addition to spacing out tables and chairs for dine-in customers.
- Post informative signs reminding customers and employees of the COVID-19 prevention measures and the correct way of observing them (i.e., how to wear a mask, wash hands with water and soap for at least 20 seconds).
Maintain a Safe and Healthy Environment for All
It’s not an exaggeration to say that it takes a country to beat a pandemic. Every single effort counts; but more than that, everyone must be consistent in observing the best practices for eliminating and stopping the continued transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Bars, restaurants, and other food establishments, most especially, because of the high potential for transmission in these establishments. Observing these best practices can go a long way to safeguarding the health of every person on the premises, from the kitchens to the dining room.