Restaurants have been one of the epicenters of debate over what is safe and unsafe during the era of COVID-19. After a lockdown that was crippling financially to restaurant owners around the globe, restrictions allowed for reduced-capacity outdoor dining and takeout.
Some restaurants were well-equipped to handle the transition to this as their primary mode of business, while others were yearning for a chance to open up indoor dining. Now, as we head out of summer weather, restrictions are starting to loosen up further, and we are seeing indoor dining spread across the nation once again. However, this opens up a lot of safety concerns. How do you keep this type of environment safe?
There are quite a few things to look at in this regard. As a start, you should be trying to minimize the chance that anyone clearly sick enters your restaurant under any circumstances. Many businesses are using temperature checks at the door, but experts doubt the ability of this to keep a building safe on its own. Self-attestation may be a more useful tool here (more on that in a bit).
Something equally important is making sure that your employees are being responsible. While you can’t completely control their personal lives, if they feel even mildly ill, they need not come into work. In addition, if they had come into contact with someone who later tested positive for COVID-19, they need to quarantine themselves and try to get a test, if possible.
While this will help keep some potentially infected people away from your customers, there’s still the concern of asymptomatic people. For this, you need to take additional measures inside the restaurant as well as at the door. There are a few ways to do this:
PPE: PPE is essential in any environment to combat germ spread, and restaurants are no different. This means masks, gloves, and sanitizer readily available for employees and customers. In addition, you may want to take things to the next level by using barriers to avoid particles being spread to employees at say, the host/hostess’s desk.
Social distancing: All indoor dining right now is generally restricted to a lower percentage of maximum occupancy. This avoids the nightmare of trying to keep a packed house from breathing and coughing on each other, but you still want to keep social distancing in mind. This means changing your floor plan to avoid tables being too close to each other, even when going to use the bathroom or leave after eating.
Sanitization: Sanitization is always important in the food business, but now, cleaning up customer areas is as important as the kitchen areas to avoid an asymptomatic person spreading COVID-19 to anyone. Make sure your bussers have a more aggressive cleaning plan and the equipment to do their job.
There is a second phase to all of this work, though. Not only do restaurants need to go to the next level to keep their employees and patrons safe, but they also need to be able to clearly show that they are taking these measures. This means aggressive signage and possibly even marketing to show that you and your employees are adhering to all existing safety measures in your state. The sooner you can prove that you are doing this, the sooner your customers will feel happy about coming in to eat once again.
Restaurants naturally want to take advantage of loosening restrictions on indoor dining to support and possibly save their businesses. However, safety is still a paramount concern. Because lowering transmission in an indoor dining environment is a lot more difficult than outdoors, the best course of action is minimizing the chance of someone getting infected entering your establishment in the first place. Self-attestation is our best tool here, as even when rapid testing is developed, it will take time to roll out. This starts with using COVID-PreCheck. Visit covidprecheck.net or use it from the COVID PreCheck app.
Restaurants can ask customers to use the app to perform their own self-assessment and scan the results of their test using a QR-code as they enter the restaurant. It takes 30 seconds to access the COVID PreCheck app and take the self-assessment test. Customers can do this while waiting in the parking lot before entering the restaurant. If they have had a rapid test done, customers can even display the status of this test using a QR-code on their phones. If they have had a laboratory test done and their doctor has updated their status when they are proven negative, that can be shown as a personalized QR code as well. By verifying the COVID PreCheck status of customers, restaurants can further ensure the safety of patrons and employees while also sending the right message about creating a safe space for their customers’ dining experience.