New Restaurant Protocols for Safe and Pleasant Dining Out Experiences
Dan Levenson July 06, 2020
COVID-19 guidelines are continually evolving. It’s important for everyone in the food service business and members of the public planning to dine out, to check with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website on a regular basis, as well as that of the World Health Organization (WHO). But we’ve put together a list of the basic protocols for best practices for restaurants offering dine-in services for the duration of the time we must join together to prevent the spread of this virus.
Dining out will look different for the foreseeable future, maybe forever. Some trends, may remain when the COVID-19 risk ends, others may return due to popular demand. But as always, restaurants who show concern for customers, whose management and staff taps their creativity to make dining at their establishment a pleasurable and unique experience, will fill tables now and in the future.
Maintaining a Healthy Dining Services Staff
Restaurant owners, managers, and all workers, must be monitored for signs of disease, following CDC guidelines. Simple, effective personal habits that help prevent infection, like hand washing and refraining from touching one’s face, should be posted in a prominent place.
Masks for Staff Members and Customers
Every staff members must wear a mask at all times. The masks must cover both nose and mouth. Restaurant patrons should also be required to wear masks, before and after dining, and when they are away from their table. Here are some facts about masks from the Mayo Clinic.
Sanitize Every Surface
This has always been a priority for any food service enterprise. But sanitizing commonly overlooked surfaces continually, is absolutely critical these days. Door handles, of course, must wiped as often as possible, as well as all surfaces inside restrooms. But even walls, and any surface that may be touched by multiple customers, must be considered a potential area of virus transmission.
Signage to Educate Customers
Restaurants should post customer guidelines and print media detailing the preventative procedures they are following to protect everyone. Customers will choose dine-in restaurants based on how safe they feel while on the premises.
Socially Distanced Seating
Tables should be removed, plexiglass installed, to create six feet of space or a solid barrier between tables. This will fulfill basic CDC guidelines, and reassure diners.
If a restaurant’s tables are filled and the waiting area isn’t spacious enough for social distancing, customers should be advised to wait in their cars, to be notified by phone when a table becomes available. If this situation occurs with frequency, the enterprise could offer seating exclusively by reservation.
Paper or Digital Menus
Printed menu, passed by servers from one table to the next, may be a thing of the past. Though lamination allows the traditional type to be sanitized, that step added another task to an already busy restaurant worker’s day. It’s an essential step that could be easily overlooked.
Providing paper menus lower risk of disease transmission and makes it possible to easily alter menu offerings and prices.
The same goes for a QR based system which provides completely “no touch by others” menus to those with smartphones, without the need to download an app. This post offers tips for creating a contest to encourage customer engagement when introducing QR menus. Paper or traditional menus could be provided to patrons without smartphones.
Eliminate Self-serve Options
Salad bars and drink refill stations are potential sites for contamination. Some customers may actually appreciate completely personalized service.
Clear Tables – Completely – Between Customers
In some restaurants, customers are used to seeing things like salt and pepper shakers, sugar dispensers or packets, silverware and napkins, already provided for them. While this has been considered a sign of hospitality, it’s not a wise practice, even during normal times; definitely not during a pandemic.
Every object is a potential infection source, COVID-19 an especially serious virus; therefore, everything should be removed from a restaurant’s tables, between diners.
As mentioned above, the points presented create a basic roadmap, to help restaurants stay in compliance with regulations, and aid patrons in locating the safest places to dine during while COVID-19 remains a risk. But it’s essential to stay up to date with CDC and WHO guidelines, as well as those of state and local health departments.