National Consumers League

Measures restaurants are taking during the pandemic to reopen

By Nailah John, Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow

As restaurants open across America, we all want to know what the ideal measures are to keep consumers safe. A few days ago, I went to a french restaurant in Old Town, Alexandria for brunch with my family. We weren’t allowed inside, but a hostess stood at the door with the names of customers waiting to be seated. We all practiced social distancing, every customer wore masks, and every restaurant staff member wore gloves.

We were eventually seated on the patio—six-feet apart—and a mobile menu was circulated to avoid person-to-person contact. My brunch experience during  COVID-19 is similar to what states around the country are requiring as restaurants reopen.

According to Eater, all 44 states have allowed restaurants to reopen in some capacity. In each state, varying degrees of social distancing measures remain in place for businesses that want to reopen.

Forbes highlights what health experts say about reopening while also maintaining a safe environment for staff and patrons, including:

  • Implement shifts for employees and stick to them. This helps to make exposure clear and limited in case a staff member test positive for COVID-19;
  • place hand sanitizer on each table, at all entrances and exits, and in bathrooms;
  • regular disinfection of high touch surfaces is needed;
  • provide disposable menus or an online menu, touchless ordering through a mobile, app, text, or phone call;
  • and require all customers and employees to wear masks while waiting to be seated and when going to the restroom.

And here are other measures that restaurant industry experts recommend:

  • Implement available screening measures for employees before they start their shift, check their temperatures. If someone has a fever, send them home.
  • Train and communicate new protocols with your employees, it's important they are briefed on new protocols or there would be a bit of chaos.
  • Buffets and salad bars should use sneeze guards- glass or plastic barriers that shield food- and utensils should be changed and washed frequently.
  • Install plexiglass dividers between booths and hostess stands.
  • Customers should make reservations as many restaurants have stopped serving walk-in customers.
  • Avoid reusable condiments on tables or self-serve stations and instead switch to single-serve packets for items like ketchup.

Restaurants are reopening and we are all eager to head out and socialize with friends and family, but it is paramount that we all adhere to safety protocols put in place by trusted experts to continue to not risk exposure to  COVID-19. Please consumers, wear your mask, wash your hands, practice six-foot social distancing, and sanitize your hands. With your efforts, we can help to flatten the curve.