Covid-19 Information, Tips, and Resources to assist Restaurants and Food Service Operators Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus

To say the U.S. restaurant industry will be drastically affected by the outbreak of coronavirus is an understatement.

In the wake of the local and state governments issuing either reduced occupancy directives or dining room closures, restaurants and bars are tasked with forming an effective coronavirus prevention plan while also making ends meet to stay in business. 

But the better that restaurants and foodservice operators all control the spread of coronavirus, the sooner we will see things get back to normal. Remember, you are better prepared for this than many other industries, since keeping guests safe and preventing foodborne illness has always been a priority.  

CORONAVIRUS RECAP

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in humans and many different species of animals. First detected in Wuhan, China, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a respiratory illness, initially spread from animals to humans, but is now is spreading through person-to-person contact. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, cough, fever, and shortness of breath. While there is currently no vaccine or treatments available, research is underway.

When an infected person coughs, sneezes or exhales, droplets of infected fluid are released. Those droplets contaminate surfaces and objects nearby.  Touching those surfaces can cause a person to become infected, however, the virus will not stay on the surface for too long. People in close contact (within 6 feet), can catch the virus by breathing in droplets of the infected fluid.

Here are individual prevention recommendations. Foremost, wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60- 95% alcohol. Don’t believe the myth that hand dryers alone will kill the virus: Make sure to wash first, then dry thoroughly with paper or a hand dryer. DO NOT touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. And of course, stay home if you are sick.


CAN THE VIRUS BE SPREAD THROUGH FOOD?

The World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have not seen definitive evidence that the coronavirus is being transmitted through food or food packaging.


WHAT SHOULD FOODSERVICE OPERATORS DO TO PREVENT SPREADING CORONAVIRUS?

Restaurant operators should do whatever they can to make guests safer. Hygiene is always of paramount importance within the foodservice industry at the best of times, and even more so during an outbreak such as coronavirus.

Our existing clients should continue everything they have been doing to comply with Department of Health requirements, avoid unnecessary violations, continue operating at the highest level of food safety, and maintain inspection readiness every day. In addition, we recommend staying informed and implementing proactive practices.

Restaurant Sanitizing Steps for Coronavirus Prevention:

  • Sanitize seats, tables, condiments, doorknobs, containers, etc. when each guest leaves. Essentially, clean any objects and surfaces possibly touched by customers.
  • Sanitize menus with plastic sleeves after each individual use.
  • Wash, rinse AND sanitize any food contact surface as often as possible (set timers)
  • Staff should sanitize their hands every time after handling credit cards and pens.
  • Increase the frequency of bathroom cleaning.
  • Sanitize any and all iPads and touch screens on premises.
  • Throw away paper menus after each use.
  • If delivery is an option, make sure bags/containers are closed well (staple bags, stickers on containers).
  • Take extra sanitization steps after each restaurant cleaning.
  • Take extra sanitization steps after the end of the night cleaning.

For staff:

  • Encourage sick employees to stay home… no sick servers allowed! If they come in send them home. Reinforce practicing good personal hygiene
  • Keep employees informed and up to date on how the outbreak is progressing
  • Continue to follow daily food safety protocols
  • Stay compliant with the Food Code
  • Hold weekly staff meetings and employee seminars
  • Stay up to date with information from reliable sources (CDC, WHO)
  • Make sure staff is properly trained in food safety
  • Go over proper handwashing with employees.
  • Provide staff with tissues (sneezes happen!), no-touch trash cans and hand sanitizer.
  • Implement a paid sick leave, if possible
  • Make sure work policies are flexible (do not require staff calling in ill to provide a doctor’s note)
  • Train staff to do different tasks if there is a shortage of employees due to illness

For guests:

  • Make sure hand sanitizer (alcohol based) is available for guests to use

Given the unknown and changing nature of Coronavirus (COVID-19), we will continue to closely monitor any changes to existing preventative measures and strategies, in order to assist food service operators prevent and reduce the risk of spread and remain in compliance.


ADDITIONAL CORONAVIRUS PREVENTION RESOURCES:

As seen on Total Food Service

Rada Tarnovsky

Rada Tarnovsky is a practicing attorney, who co-founded Letter Grade Consulting to help food service operators comply with regulations set forth by the NYC Department of Health.  Servicing restaurants, hotels, theatres, corporate cafeterias and schools, Letter Grade Consulting provides operators with preemptive solutions, education and training to sustain the highest level of food safety, remain inspection ready and maintain the “A” in the window. Rada can be reached at