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What Restaurants & Bars Need to Do to Resume Operations

With states and counties throughout the country now allowing restaurants and bars to partially or fully resume business, many business owners and customers are wondering what dining looks like in a COVID-19 laden world. We’ve posted a few things with tips and speculations, but the state of California has released a document with some firm guidance for hospitality businesses. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also released guidance specifically for restaurants. Keep reading for more details on what you’ll need to do to make sure your business is compliant. 

The guidance, published in partnership with OSHA, recommends that businesses should “establish a written, worksite-specific COVID-19 prevention plan at every location”, which includes assessing the risk of different site areas (how likely it is that people could be infected, say, in your hallway) and plan accordingly. So if you have narrow areas of your restaurant or bar, that might mean stationing an employee nearby to regulate traffic. The guide also states that you should prepare to do contact tracing (finding who people have come into contact with) for any COVID infected employees, and to provide training for employees on how to properly distance guests, sanitize different areas of the business, and stay compliant with the regulations. The measures that restaurants need to take are fairly comprehensive, and even include checking employees’ temperatures before every shift, mandating that employees wear face masks at all times, posting signs to inform customers of the new protocols, and extremely frequent cleaning of high-traffic surfaces. Employee training should include at home self screening instruction. There are even specific, approved cleaning solutions that should be used for specific amounts of time, depending on the solution.

Dine in restaurants and other hospitality businesses that serve food should “encourage takeout and delivery service whenever possible”. This leaves a lot of establishments in a really tough spot, forced to either make major changes to their operations in order to start serving food (which comes with it’s own CDC and Health Inspection hurdles), or remain closed during the busy start to summer season. While this is tragic for business owners — early summer is already a busy time, especially so when we’ve all been stuck inside for months — better to err on the side of caution than risk your establishment being ground zero for another outbreak.

A few other suggestions include:

  • Provide disposable menus
  • Install physical barriers at host stands, cash registers, etc.
  • Supply cutlery and napkins individually as needed (not set up ahead of time)
  • Install portable high-efficiency air cleaners
  • Suspend use of shared items such as condiment bottles, seasoning shakers, etc.
  • Equip all areas and stations with sanitation equipment and hand sanitizer
  • Let customers fill their own takeout containers
  • Change table linens after every use
  • Close areas where customers may congregate or touch food, such as salad bars.
  • Discontinue use of shared entertainment items such as childrens crayons
  • Prioritize outdoor seating and curbside pickup
  • Encourage reservations and space parties well apart
  • Ask customers to wait in their car or outside (6 feet apart) rather than indoors
  • Reconfigure dining furniture so that there is at least six feet of physical distance between tables
  • Bar areas should remain closed
  • Face covers are recommended for all employees, and required for any employees that come within six feet of customers
  • Prop open doors or install automated doors so that customers do not have to touch doors to open

The list of suggestions is extensive. And while these are mostly suggestions for now (not necessarily mandates), it’s probably best to adhere to all of them as best as possible to effectively prevent the spread of infections. Not only do we all want this virus to go away as quickly as possible so that we can get back to “normal”, but you do not want your business to have the negative attention that comes with being the epicenter for an outbreak. Just ask Chipotle.

You can find the original post with the PDF version of all the guidelines here.