As we adjust to the “new normal” which the COVID-19 outbreak has brought upon us, individuals and corporations alike play a critical role in ensuring public health and safety. Businesses like restaurants and food delivery services must not only ensure sanitary food handling but also enforce tight precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

If you’re in the restaurant business and you plan to reopen your store amid the pandemic, below are some reopening guidelines for restaurants. Adhere to these measures to protect the welfare of your employees and customers.

Minimizing Infection Risk

Prioritize the safety of your staff and customers

Remember that the longer and more frequently a person interacts with others, the more likely they are to get infected with the coronavirus disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of Covid-19 spread is higher in restaurants/bars that have the following set-up:

  • Low risk – Food services limited to take-out, delivery, drive-through, and curbside pick up.
  • Moderate risk – Take-out, delivery, drive-through, curbside pick-up, and on-site dining limited to outdoor seating. There’s limited seating capacity and a 2-metre distance between tables is maintained.
  • More risk – On-site dining that allows both indoor and outdoor seating. Limited seating capacity is observed, with a 2-metre distance between tables.
  • Highest risk – On-site dining that allows indoor and outdoor seating. Seating capacity is not reduced; tables are not spaced at least 2 metres apart

The main mode of transmission of the virus is through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. Infection can happen once a person touches a contaminated surface and proceeds to touch his nose or mouth.

This is why personal hygiene practices like proper handwashing, as well as surface cleaning and disinfection, must be enforced in your store.

All Store Staff Must Observe Safety Protocols

Educate staff on proper hygiene measures

Adjusting to the new normal is especially important for the food industry. Every person working in restaurants and food services must participate in reducing the risk of Covid-19 spread in their workplaces. These workers include:

  • Chefs/cooks
  • Food servers
  • Cashiers
  • Dishwashers
  • Maintenance personnel
  • Drive-through operators
  • Supervisors and managers

Food businesses must comply with the laws and regulations stipulated in the Occupational Health and Safety (OH & S) Legislation in Canada to contain infection risk.

In addition, the CDC recommends restaurants and bars to implement the following strategies in promoting behaviours that lower the chances of COVID-19 spread among their staff and customers:

1.Practice proper hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

  • Ensure that employees wash their hands more often, particularly before, during, and after handling food (as well as when they touch garbage). Wash with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Encourage your staff to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue or handkerchief when they cough and sneeze. Dispose of used tissues properly in trash bins; immediately wash hands and disinfect using an alcohol-based sanitizer.

2.Require the use of cloth masks.

  • Face coverings are necessary even when observing physical distancing. Cloth masks are worn to protect others in case the wearer is showing flu-like symptoms.
    Teach your staff how to use, remove, and wash cloth masks properly.

3.Encourage employees to stay home when needed.

  • Those who are ill or have had recent close contact with a person suspected of having COVID-19 must stay home.
  • Create policies that encourage people to stay home. Make sure all your staff are aware of such policies

4.Provide enough supplies for your staff.

  • Make sure there are adequate supplies that your employees can use as they follow hygiene practices. These supplies include soap, hand sanitizer (with 60% alcohol, placed at points of assembly), tissues, face masks, and foot pedal trash bins.

5.Post visible messages and signages.

  • Place signs in prominent locations like entryways and restrooms. These signs should urge people to protect themselves by washing their hands and proper wearing of face masks.
  • Use your marketing channels (e.g. website, emails, and social media pages) to promote the message of preventing COVID-19 infection.

Enforce Physical Distancing Measures

Maintain a 2-metre distance from others to minimize infection risk

The Public Health of Ontario office advises everyone to observe physical distancing to prevent the possible spread of coronavirus. This means staying at least 2 metres away from another person when in public areas.

Below are ways restaurant owners can enforce physical distancing in their stores:

  • Consider reducing the point of contact with customers
  • Keep a safe distance when handling goods and receiving payments. As much as possible, eliminate the need to hand in cash as well as at-the-door payment options.
  • Appoint someone in your team to ensure customers are adhering to physical distancing measures.
  • Put up barriers between cashiers and customers. You can use plexiglass or place floor markers that indicate a 2-meter distance between your staff and customers.
  • Control the number of staff in the workplace and the areas they’re assigned.
  • Limit the number of people being in one space at the same time.
  • Practice physical distancing during meetings. Hold meetings in a bigger space.
  • Minimize interaction between workers and third-party service providers.
  • Stagger or rotate shifts to reduce the number of staff in bars/restaurants at the same time.

Modifying your store layout to ensure customers are at least 2 metres apart is also highly recommended.

  • Limit seating capacity to allow for physical distancing.
  • Reduce the number of tables and stools; mark those that are not for use.
  • Provide options like 2drive-through, delivery, and curb-side pick-up to minimize personal contact.
  • While waiting for their orders or to be accommodated inside the store, ask customers to wait inside their cars or outside the establishment.
  • Inform your customers about your dining protocols by posting them on your website, social media pages, and putting up signs in and outside your store.
  • Offer options for dine-in customers to order ahead of time. This way, they can limit the length of time spent in the establishment.
  • In the meantime, avoid self-service options including buffets, beverage stations, and salad bars.

Track Your Employees

Protect your employees’ health and safety while at work

It’s also necessary to track where your workers have been. The local public health unit will use the information you obtain in case one of your employees tested positive for the disease. You need to be able to provide the employee’s contact details and other workers who may have had recent close contact with the person.

If you suspect one of your employees may have Covid-19, the next step you should do is to run a risk assessment. After the assessment, the local public health unit may require you to do the following:

  • Inform the workers who may have been exposed and ask them to go home.
  • Ask the identified workers to self-isolate, closely monitor their health, and report COVID-19-like symptoms.
  • Clean and disinfect the entire workplace and shut down the restaurant until further notice.
  • Comply with other preventive measures mandated by the public health office.

How to Report a Possible COVID-19 Case

Coordinate with the local public health unit in preventing COVID-19 spread

The common symptoms of coronavirus disease are similar to that of the cold and flu. Someone from your workforce who shows these symptoms must be sent home as soon as possible. Public Health Ontario has rolled out guidelines on self-isolation and self-monitoring.

Workers who may have COVID-19 are also advised to take an online self-assessment test and call their healthcare provider.

Restaurant owners and operators must ensure strict implementation of health and safety policies as they begin their operations during the pandemic. Always keep your employees and customers’ welfare in mind.

PT General Contractor Inc. is here to help you adjust to the new normal with the appropriate restaurant setup. Get in touch with us if you plan to remodel your restaurant in line with social distancing measures. Call us at (416) 757-9100 for high-quality restaurant renovations.