Keeping Your Restaurant Safe During COVID-19

Cleanliness and maintaining good hygiene among staff should always be a top priority for any restaurant owner. This benefits your workers and your patrons, keeping everyone healthy and making people feel safe visiting your establishment. Many states have letter grades from health officials posted in the restaurant’s front window and many customers will avoid any restaurants with less than an “A” rating. Not properly cleaning your restaurant can also leave restaurant owners open to lawsuits if a patron or worker gets food poisoning from unsanitary conditions.

Clean, clean, clean

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to not only maintain strict cleanliness and hygiene but to disinfect your restaurant properly. As the world has learned, this particular virus is extremely contagious and this has created a huge challenge for the restaurant industry. It is important to know how to properly clean to reduce spreading the risk of the virus. The common method of wiping down restaurant tables with a wet rag may actually spread the virus and mopping the floor once a day may not be enough.

When cleaning, you should wear disposable gloves so they can be discarded if they become contaminated. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends cleaning surfaces using soap and water and then using disinfectant. Cleaning with soap and water reduces the number of germs. Disinfectants kills germs on surfaces. The CDC also recommends practicing routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces. More frequent clean and disinfecting mat be necessary depending on the level of usage. Surfaces and objects in public places such as point of sale keypads should be cleaned and disinfected before every use. High touch surfaces include door knobs, light switches, counter-tops, handles, desks, chairs, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks.

It is important to disinfect safely and properly. The CDC recommends using EPA registered household disinfectants. It is important to follow the instructions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of the product. Workers should take precautions such as wearing gloves and make sure there is good ventilation during use of the product. One should follow the instructions on the label which usually include wearing skin protection and consider wearing eye protection such as goggles, ensure adequate ventilation, use water for dilution at room temperature, avoid mixing chemical products, label diluted cleaning solutions and store chemicals in a safe place out of the reach of children and away from food. EPA approved disinfectants include products that include sodium percarbonate, quaternary ammonium, hydrogen peroxide, ethyl alcohol, hydrochloric acid, phenolic and tetraacetyl ethylenediamine.

Diluted household bleach solutions may also be used for appropriate surfaces. Check the label to see if your bleach is intended for disinfection and has a sodium hypochlorite concentration of 5%–6%. Please note that some bleaches, such as those designed for safe use on colored clothing or for whitening may not be suitable for disinfection. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser and leave solution on the surface for at least 1 minute. Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol may also be used.

For soft surfaces such as carpeted floors, rugs and drapes, clean the surfaces with soap and water or with cleaners appropriate for those surfaces. Launder items according to manufacturer instructions ideally using EPA registered household disinfectants. These disinfectants meet the EPA’s criteria for use against COVID-19. For electronics such as tablets, touch screens, keyboards and remote controls consider putting wipeable covers over electronics. Depending on the manufacturer’s instructions you may use alcohol-based wipes or solutions. Make sure to dry surfaces thoroughly.

Restaurants can also reduce the spread of the virus by using disposable cutlery or by thoroughly washing cutlery with soap and hot water. Fast casual restaurants can give disposable cutlery to customers directly, instead of having them use self service stations. Employees should wash their hands frequently, hand sanitizer dispensers should be available for customers and sanitizing napkins can also be distributed.

Social Distance

Social distancing is not just a government recommendation, it’s common sense. If people are further apart it is more difficult for the virus to spread from person to person. The CDC recommends people keep a distance of 6 feet apart from other people. Fast casual restaurants can help their customer social distance by putting markers on the floor 6 feet apart for those standing in line. Plexiglass can also be put up as a barrier between staff and patrons and all employees should be wearing face masks and disposable gloves. Seating plans should be arranged to ensure social distancing so patros from other parties are sitting at least 6 feet apart. For many restaurants this means operating at 50% capacity or less.

Safe Spaces

Make your restaurant feel like a safe spot to customers. Advertise your sanitizing efforts to the public by putting up signage in your window and publicize your efforts on social media. Send a message to your customers that your restaurant feels like a haven from the outside. Make your efforts known in your booking flow and encourage customers to make reservations since this can help you plan seating and avoid the necessity of people standing in lines. These are very challenging times. There is a lot of uncertainty about how long the pandemic and the economic downturn will last. This is a good time to engage with your community and let them know that your establishment is a safe place to enjoy a meal by making sure your restaurant is as hygienic as possible.
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