How to choose restaurants in a post-COVID restaurant world

In the post-COVID restaurant world, safety will be as important as taste

Restaurant's outdoor tables Copyright © NSL Photography. All Rights Reserved.The post-COVID restaurant world will be challenging for eateries and for travelers. Restaurants are important to the travel experience. They introduce us, often like no other place, to local tastes and culture. They are different than other travel venues in that diners can’t wear face masks most of the time.

Restaurants need to change their physical layout, protocols, and procedures to keep us safe. The post-COVID restaurant world will be different from dining we have left behind. Taste and service will be important, but safety will be as well.

The world of dining is beginning to reopen for the post-COVID restaurant world. Today, businesses in the travel and hospitality industries are formulating plans to keep their employees and customers safe tomorrow.

Protection from the virus will be paramount for restaurants and diners

Restaurant changes are necessary. We have to understand how COVID-19 spreads and how long it stays on surfaces found in restaurants.

COVID-19 is transmitted by respiratory droplets from infected people when they cough, sneeze or talk. Public health officials say that a safe distance from other people is about six feet. This prevents the droplets from transmitting the virus,  We know that wind and drafts carry the droplets even further than six feet.

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How long COVID-19 remains viable on the surfaces in their dining and cooking areas will be important.

Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Princeton University, UCLA, and the CDC found that COVID-19 was viable on plastic surfaces for up to 72 hours and stainless steel surfaces for up to 48 hours. Dr. Amesh A. Adalja of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security believes that COVID-19’s viability on fabrics is from “several hours to maybe a day.”

Restaurants should change their operations as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and beyond, for safety’s sake: Clean and sanitize restaurants. Focus on high contact areas. Miss nothing. Sanitizing products used and methodology should conform to public health expert instructions.

The post-COVID restaurant world will have reduced seating for diners

Reduce restaurant seating. Allow 6–10 feet between tables to provide diners space to socially distance themselves while seated. I suggest ten feet because diners won’t be wearing face masks while dining.

Air conditioning/Heating:
Baffles on restaurant HVAC systems eliminate drafts and limit air blowing in all areas of the restaurant. This is most important in the dining room, where diners will be maskless while eating and drinking. Prevent the HVAC air movement from carrying the virus longer distances than 6–10 feet.

Sanitize trays between every use.

Hand sanitizer:
Have hand sanitizer wipes at tables.

Employee testing and sanitary practices are as important as the food

Employee testing:
Test employees’ temperature daily. It may help but doesn’t detect infected symptomless employees. They can spread the virus just as easily as those with a fever. All employees should be tested for COVID-19 regularly.

Employee sanitary practices:
Have employees wear masks whenever possible. Employees should wear disposable gloves when handling food. All employees should wash their hands regularly, not just after using the lavatory. This includes whenever they’ve come in contact with other employees and diners, credit/debit cards, cleaning tables, etc.

The setup and cleaning of the bathroom needs special attention. It needs regular cleaning before the restaurant opens and during its operation. Some bathroom redesign should be considered to promote sanitary conditions in the restaurant for the benefit of employees and diners.

Change table setup to prevent possible contamination

Table setup:
Tables should be set up as needed. Don’t leave tableware sitting out for unknown periods of time. Fresh table linen and newly cleaned/sanitized tableware should be used each time the table is set. There should be minimal accessories on the table. Condiments should be provided only by request. Provide salt, pepper, sugar, etc., in single use packaging. It is safer but not elegant.

Use disposable or sanitized menus.

Payment terminals:
U.S. restaurants and those in other nations should take a cue from Europe. There, portable credit/debit card terminals that also take contactless cards and smartphone payments, should become standard. Eliminate card handling by restaurant employees or have sanitary wipes to clean the card after use.

Order/reservation computers:
These computers/terminals should be sanitized each day and regularly during operating hours.

Eliminate buffets and salad bars. 

Between seatings:
Clear tables of everything, including the table cloth. Reset the table prior to the next seating.

Buffets and salad bars:
In my opinion, self-service buffets and bars should be eliminated. Sneeze guards aren’t enough. Allowing diners to grab plates and handle serving pieces isn’t sanitary. If buffets and bars are desired, servers should be utilized to plate food at the direction of diners who will stand behind sneeze guards. Only servers should touch serving pieces, plates etc. then hand the plates to diners.

Diners should not congregate in waiting or bar areas. Social distancing should be emphasized in these areas. Customers should wear face masks whenever not dining at a table. Encourage hand washing or hand sanitizer use.

The above issues are important. Restaurants must have high cleanliness confidence. This is as important as respecting their taste buds. Pay attention to your customers’ safety. Then, restaurants can focus on the dining experience..

(Image: Restaurant’s outdoor tables Copyright © 2019 NSL Photography. All Rights Reserved.)