COVID-19 has not been easy on anyone, especially smaller businesses that rely on walk-in traffic, repeated purchases, and lasting customer relationships. With businesses forced to temporarily close their doors to curb the spread of the virus, highly social settings like restaurants have taken a particularly hard hit.
But as the recent outlook for COVID-19 steadily improves, restaurants are welcoming the reopening of the economy. As public health guidelines are slowly relaxed, and eager patrons reclaim patio season — with increased physical distancing and hygiene measures — restaurants are starting to welcome back customers and slowly recoup losses.
The challenge remains: How to reopen safely with increased safety precautions, such as frequent sanitation of restaurant equipment and restaurant furniture. It’s only by working to prevent the spread of the virus can restaurants ensure that they will stay open and can continue to serve customers.
Make Handwashing Mandatory
From the rise to the flattening of the curve, public health authorities have always maintained that without a definitive cure in sight, there’s no substitute for good hygiene. Restaurant owners and staff and their patrons alike should practice proper and frequent handwashing. The importance of this should already have been ingrained among the kitchen staff who handle and prepare food.
While customer washrooms have always been stocked with hand washing supplies, it’s necessary to set up additional hand hygiene stations, such as hand sanitizers in the entrance, and ensure that customers stop to clean their hands as they are led to their table. This is where managing the flow of foot traffic also comes in, as it’s important to reduce contact with other tables, and ensure that customers maintain physical distancing.
For larger restaurants with customer washrooms that are hard to access without compromising physical distancing, or are constantly busy, alternative handwashing stations are a good option. Portable sinks can be set up closer to dining areas so that more customers can wash their hands at the same time. This also helps keep frequently touched surfaces, like furniture and cutlery, cleaner. At the end of each meal, ensure that customers make cashless payments to prevent transmitting the virus through bills, as cash often passes through many hands and is unsanitary.
Clean All Restaurant Equipment
As a restaurant owner, food safety and hygiene should start with you. Doing so sets the standard for a safe and pleasant dining experience — something that has always been true even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
A safe reopening starts with cleaning the restaurant thoroughly and setting up sanitation protocols for every equipment, furniture, and ingredients used. Ensure that common areas are frequently sanitized with disinfectant wipes, before and after each customer comes in. It’s also important to set up tables with at least 3 meters between them, and direct customers to maintain physical distancing. Implementing a reservation system also limits the number of people served on a given day and ensures that customers are safely accommodated.
When cleaning, preparing food, and serving customers, staff should be wearing antibacterial gloves to reduce the risk of transmission as they handle food and come in contact with common surfaces.
In the kitchen, every food safety precaution should be taken. As well as disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, it’s essential to keep all equipment extra clean, from the commercial refrigerators where ingredients are stored to stoves and ovens, food prep stations, dishwashers, and storage areas.
It’s only by ensuring that kitchen equipment is clean that restaurants can serve customers safely and reduce the risk of infection from the frequent comings and goings of many patrons.
Use Clean Commercial Refrigerators to Store Food
As restaurants reopen following the downward trend of COVID-19, it’s important to maintain your commitment to quality and balance this with the health and safety of customers and staff.
A key component of this is food safety, which starts in the kitchen where food is stored and prepared. When properly followed, food safety ensures a clean, safe, and memorable dining experience that helps your restaurant recover losses from COVID-19; but when not, it could be the source of infection that leads to a decline in customers and even permanent closure.
Keeping a clean and frequently sanitized kitchen starts with maintaining optimal food storage conditions in your commercial refrigerators. A well-maintained true commercial refrigerator ensures that food is always stored in optimal temperatures to prevent spoilage and waste.
When storing food items in your commercial refrigerators, make sure that vegetables and fruits are properly cleaned and packed, and well-organized to avoid cross-contamination and multiple handling instances that increase the likelihood of virus transmission.
While commercial refrigerators are built to maintain optimal food storage conditions, their ability to support food safety is only as good as regular cleaning and maintenance. Make sure to regularly disinfect the shelves, such as each time inventory is restocked, as well as during routine cleaning and sanitation of kitchen equipment.
Taking these precautions helps guarantee the fresh, quality taste of every dish — and the safety of both staff and customers handling and enjoying the food you serve.
Working Towards a Safe Reopening of Restaurants
With patio season well underway, more people venturing outside and adapting to the new, cleaner normal. For patrons returning to their favourite restaurants, this brings good news and opportunities to recoup losses from COVID-19. But it is only in doing so safely that restaurants can sustain a steady reopening and accommodate customers who are helping revitalize local businesses, and reconnect with their social bubbles.
Maintaining a clean and safe kitchen and dining area is key to promoting a pleasant dining experience as communities recover from the pandemic’s impact. As customers come together to dine and share meals they missed out on during quarantine, restaurants must ensure they can do so safely — by storing ingredients and food items in clean refrigerators, regularly sanitizing frequently touched surfaces, and promoting proper and frequent handwashing among customers and staff alike.
With these safety precautions, it’s possible to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection — especially in very public settings like restaurants where transmission can easily occur — and encourage customers to support local businesses as they recover from the financial impact of the pandemic.