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Phasing into Reopening Restaurants

Thursday, June 18, 2020
Phasing into Reopening Restaurants
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As the COVID-19 threat shifts and different states start to phase into reopening, restaurants prepare to open their dining rooms and patios. Yet, several factors must be considered to comply with regulations set to ensure the health and safety of all employees and guests. It will be important to update your existing policies and procedures to reflect this “new norm” of life.

This overview serves as guidance to assist your restaurant in keeping employees and guests safe to ensure a successful reopening. This guidance is also general in nature. Additional state and local requirements or restrictions may apply depending on your establishment’s location.
Employee Health and Safety

Check that all employees are healthy as when reporting back to work and coming into contact with other employees, food, or guests. Even if the employee works in the front or back of the house—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, state any employee who is sick should stay home. And, if an employee becomes ill or shows symptoms during pre-work screenings, they should be sent home immediately.

You’ll want to identify in your policies when ill or sick employees can return to work. At the very least, follow the  CDC’s guidelines and have employees self-quarantine for seven days from the onset of their symptoms.

The CDC has not mandated taking employees’ temperatures. If you decide to do that, it’s best to adopt policies that align with proper procedures and consult your local health officials for additional questions or concerns. For other layers of protection with your employees’ health and safety, consider the following measures:

  • Explicit instruction and guidance, so employees know what is expected during opening, preparations, service, and closing operations.
  • Training all employees on the tactics of frequent hand-washing, hand sanitizer usage, and avoiding touching your hands to face.
  • Requiring employees to wear a mask or facial covering. Provide all personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for employees to do their jobs, including masks and gloves.
  • Limit the number of employees taking breaks in rooms or communal areas simultaneously.

Policies may need to evolve as local and state regulations change. Frequent and clear communication with your entire staff will be critical to the success of your reopening. Be upfront with employee expectations and consequences for failing to meet those expectations; and continue to document all protocols and procedures.

Cleaning and Sanitizing

Immerse yourself with requirements from your local and state health departments – making sure you are adhering to them. While it seems silly, it’s important to train employees on cleaning, disinfecting, and protective measures from the CDC and Food and Drug Administration. Here are some additional steps to examine:

  • Sanitize and deep clean the entire facility, especially if it’s been closed due to the pandemic. All surfaces, regardless of how often they are touched, should be sanitized.
  • Employ appropriate cleaning chemicals in food preparation and any contact surfaces/spots.
  • Sanitize frequently-contacted areas in the front and back of the facility (i.e., touch screens, doorknobs, buttons, and checkout counters) every two hours or if you can, after guess usage.
  • Clean and sanitize table items, digital-ordering devices, check presenters, self-service areas, and tabletops between guests. Consider providing condiments “by request” or single-use, disposable containers.
  • Sanitize all restrooms, frequently. Sinks in bathrooms should have running water and be stocked with hand soap, disposable paper towels, and a plastic-lined waste container.
  • Clean and sanitize menus after each use per table. If you only have paper menus, discard them after each use.
  • Don’t use disinfecting wipes to clean more than one surface. One wipe per item or area should be done, and then discard them after each use.
  • Supply hand sanitizers at entrances, exits, service counters, and any other touchpoints. Consider automatic or touchless solutions, if possible.
Food Safety

Food safety has always been a priority for the hospitality sector. Follow and maintain stringent food-safety practices as you consider new COVID-19 safety protocols. Specifically, here are some significant points:

  • Change, wash, and sanitize utensils frequently. Use rolled silverware and napkins stored in sealed bags.
  • Employees should roll silverware in designated sanitary areas and should not present your tables.
  • Use single-use gloves or deli tissue when handling food, if appropriate.
  • Discard all expired or outdated foods.
  • Wrap food containers to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Stock food coolers at minimum levels if using grab-and-go service.
  • Close any self-service food or drink stations (i.e., coffee carafes, fountain soda machines, salad bars, or buffets).
  • Ensure the person in charge of food service operations is ServSafe® certified, and that their certification is up to date.
  • Host a food handling training refresher to all employees before the first day of public reopening. Ongoing education protects your business, employees, and guests!
Social Distancing

Guests, as well as employees, should practice social distancing. Social distancing is one of the critical strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Consider these measures to protect everyone who walks through your doors:

  • Separate entrances and exits to limit customer contact with other patrons
  • Post signage at the entrance stating no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19 can enter the restaurant.
  • Base social distancing measures on square footage in service and guest areas.
  • Update floor plans and seating arrangements:
    • Maintain 6 feet of separation between tables.
    • Leave two bar stools empty between guests who are not in the same party.
    • Apply similar rules to outdoor patio areas.
  • Limit party sizes based on recommendations provided by local and state governments.
  • Monitor the number of guests on your premises at all times.
  • Limit contact between staff and guests.
  • Consider a reservations-only or call-ahead-seating process to better space guests and control party sizes.
  • Ensure guests stay separated while waiting for seating. Do not have guests congregate in waiting or bar areas. Make floor markings or have guests wait outside—6 feet apart—or in their vehicles, if possible.
  • Ensure employees and guests adhere to social distancing guidelines when using the restroom – including signage for reminders on the door.
  • Install physical barriers where practical such as booth seating or partitions.
  • Use technology to reduce person-to-person interactions (i.e., cashless payments, mobile ordering, menu tablets, contactless payment, and mobile texting for waiting and seating updates).
  • Remind outside partners or suppliers about internal distancing requirements when they arrive or are onsite.
Delivery and Carryout

During the first several weeks of the pandemic, many restaurants focused efforts to provide carryout and delivery service. As dining rooms begin to reopen, you can continue offering online sales, pickup, and delivery to reduce the frequency and number of guests in hopes of limiting face-to-face interaction. Consider allowing guests to preorder dine-in meals to reduce guests’ time on site. If offering carryout options:

  • Establish a designated pickup zone.
  • Provide guides (directions via tape on the floor) or signage to inform food pickup rules.
  • Offer curbside pickup.
  • Practice social distancing by offering to place orders in vehicle trunks.

Remind third-party delivery drivers about internal distancing requirements when they are picking up orders. If you’re offering delivery options:

  • Encourage no-touch deliveries.
  • Provide order updates via text messages or phone calls.
  • Ensure coolers and other transport containers are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
  • Maintain time and temperature controls.
  • Wrap food during transporting.
  • Carry hand sanitizer or wipes to clean hands often.
Continued Safety

While these measures are NOT all-encompassing, your restaurant can benefit from following them. As stay-at-home mandates are lightened, your business must keep its employees and customers as healthy and safe as possible.

For additional reopening resources and guidance as businesses move into COVID-19 recovery mode, contact The Horton Group, Inc. today.

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.

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