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How to Safely Open Up Your Restaurant

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The coronavirus pandemic has found its way to all corners of the globe. While much of the world faced a lockdown in some form for several months, it seems like we now have to live with a new way of life. Slowly but surely, both public and private spaces are opening up.

With the rules relaxing a bit, people are now heading out to eat. If you’re a restaurant owner in these trying times, things are probably looking up. Still, there are several steps to take before you can safely open up your restaurant and allow people in:

Steps for safely opening your restaurant

Opening your restaurant in these uncertain times is a risky decision. On the one hand, you have your business and profits to think about. Plus, a restaurant business means inevitable contact between people. There’s somebody preparing the food, someone else handling it, several waiters serving it and taking orders, etc. People come inside an enclosed space to sit together – the six feet guideline is simply not applicable in most places.

Still, we have to resume work for the sake of the economy and our own survival. Before you throw open the door or pull up the shutters, you should consider these steps to ensure everyone’s safety:

Screen the employees

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Your employees are going to be in regular contact with your customers as well as yourself. That’s why there should be a strict protocol in place to recheck employee health and enforce personal hygiene practices in the workplace.

There are several CDC guidelines for employers to implement safety procedures. Your local health authority may also have some additional guidelines for employees who are returning to work.

Besides hiring new employees, you have to stay alert for a higher level of absenteeism than before. Even workers who are not affected by the virus are advised to stay home if they have a fever, a cold, or the flu. If you’re starting your business back up again, be prepared for this issue and work out a way to handle it.

Furthermore, you should have some specific safety arrangements for the employees. This could range from simple face masks and gloves to whole PPE suits. Keep in mind that cloth face coverings are only used when you’re not required to wear PPE.

Tape on the ground

Even if your capacity doesn’t allow for six feet between each individual, you can take several measures to ensure social distancing as much as possible. This includes having tape on the floor or sidewalk so that people can stand at a reasonable distance from each other. This minimizes contact and also helps with managing a crowd.

Other areas where you can use this precautionary measure are around self-serve drink or food stations. Examples of these include salad bars, buffet tables, water fountains, soda fountains, etc.

Get sneeze guards

If you want to open your restaurant in the safest way possible, getting personal safety partitions or sneeze guards is a must. The CDC guidelines do include keeping a distance of six feet and maintaining social distancing. However, this will probably not be possible for most restaurants and other public enclosed spaces.

With sneeze guards at cash registers and other areas where people come into contact, you can help everyone stay safe while retaining a semblance of normalcy.

While choosing your sneeze guards, you have a choice between Plexiglas and PVC. The latter might be a more flexible option, though the final decision will depend on your specific needs.

In any case, make sure your sneeze guards have space for hanging from the ceiling or can stand on the floor if required. Having customized safety partitions is also a great precaution. So, take a look at the nature of your business and decide on the best model for your needs.

Have a food safety checklist

If you check the FDA website, they should have a checklist for reopening eating establishments in the current times. This list includes some food safety practices that should be in place for every restaurant.

However, keep in mind that this checklist is not exhaustive nor very comprehensive. It might be more effective to pair these short guidelines with help from the local healthy and regulatory authorities. Discuss the specific requirements of your own eating establishment before reopening day. This will help you stay safe and functional right from the beginning.

Prepare the premises

When people enter your restaurant or its vicinity, they should be able to see some reminders of the CDC guidelines. If there aren’t any up already, post some signs detailing how the customers can take protective and preventative measures to limit the spread of the virus.

Additionally, the premises should be in fully functioning order, with the equipment and utilities properly maintained.

Ensure maintenance

There should also be a proper ventilation system to minimize the risk of spreading illnesses. This should be free of mold, infestations, and other forms of harmful growth. The air ducts and vents will probably need a deep cleaning process to get rid of dust.

Check pests and high-contact zones

It’s essential to check for any pest infestations and get your pest control measures in order.

Remove any items that require a lot of hand contact, such as shared ketchup dispensers, soda machines, etc. It’s best if you assign one individual to operate them; if that’s not possible, there should be arrangements to sanitize the area after each use.

Practice sanitization

Each and every area, especially the restrooms and food preparation sites, should be thoroughly cleaned, sanitized, and/or disinfected. Stock up on enough cleaning items to ensure that the place remains germ-free throughout the workday.

Every table and counter in your establishment should have the required sanitizers on them. This will enable customers and employees to sanitize their hands easily. The sanitizers should meet the EPA criteria for effectiveness against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They also have to be utilized according to the instructions on the label.

Finally, it’s also a good idea to supplement the sanitizing and disinfecting with frequent hand washing. You might want to consider several hand washing stations for both employees and customers, if possible.

The takeaway

Whether you have a fancy restaurant, cafe, or food truck to open, following the steps above is highly recommended. You don’t want to compromise the health of either your employees or your customers; nor do you want to put yourself or your family at risk.

With the current situation, it’s only logical and ethical to take several precautions before going on with your restaurant business. They might seem overwhelming and expensive at first, but the health and lives of many people might depend on your responsible attitude.

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