The threat of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus still looms. Even so, states are making progress to open their economies back up, lifting restrictions that will enable restaurants to welcome back patrons and resume dine-in services once more. The question now posed is how to go about getting back to normal (or as close as possible) without jeopardizing the wellbeing of your staff and guests.

Reopening Your Restaurant: A Few Notes to Keep in Mind

COVID-19 rapidly spreads from person to person through close contact, and can be done so easily by coming within six feet of an infected person. It can be transmitted through coughing, sneezing, or even talking, and it can even spread by touching an infected surface or object and then touching your face. The threat will continue to loom prominently until the day comes when a vaccine is developed, tested, and released to the public; or the population at large develops herd immunity.

COVID-19 spreads quickly and knowledge is power. It is critical to know the facts about COVID-19, and steps to take to reduce the risk and spread, especially in high traffic areas, keeping top of mind those at a higher risk of severe complications. This pertains to restaurants, businesses, and anywhere where crowds congregate. Everyone is at risk and older adults, as well as those with underlying medical conditions and compromised immune systems, are at a severer risk.

When planning your restaurant reopening, go slowly and be proactive. Don’t rush into anything without the appropriate supplies on hand to protect against the spread. Food safety is always a priority, but there’s an added emphasis in this current climate. If necessary precautions aren’t adhered to, the virus can transmit from prep areas to your valued guests. There should always be a ServSafe certified member on duty to help ensure safe practices are followed at all times, and regularly train staff on the best ways to keep themselves and your customers safe.

You can help prevent the spread by instilling safe social distancing expectations in your dining areas, regularly cleaning and disinfecting, frequent and thorough handwashing, and donning protective gear.

Dos and Don’ts 

DO:

  • Establish occupancy limits and expectations for social distancing.
  • Come up with a plan to safely accommodate guests who have to wait.
  • Create processes for regularly cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Train staff on thorough cleaning and disinfecting processes.
  • Train staff on food safety.
  • Ensure a ServSafe certified member is on duty at all times.
  • Monitor employee health and require anyone feeling sick or showing symptoms stay home.
  • Require staff to wash hands regularly, following the steps outlined in our Handwashing Best Practices Guide.
  • Setup hand sanitizing stations, making them easily accessible to both staff and guests.
  • Equip staff with the proper supplies to remain safe while serving your guests.

DON’T:

  • Don’t assume guests will feel comfortable dining out immediately after restrictions are lifted. For this reason, we encourage you to continue offering delivery and curbside pickup services.
  • In the same vein, don’t assume staff will feel comfortable returning to work immediately.
  • Don’t assume social distancing will be easy to enforce. There are, however, solutions available to keep it top of mind and make it easier of guests and staff to abide, including social distancing floor mats and signs.

Encourage Social Distancing

The COVID-19 coronavirus easily spreads from person to person contact. Therefore, it is heavily encouraged that guests in your dining area remain, at a minimum, six feet apart at all times. It is recommended that you rearrange your dining room layout to accommodate. Our article on Maximizing Your Restaurant Space While Promoting Social Distancing outlines some tips and best practices for doing so, including spacing out tables, eliminating unused furniture, and optimizing your outdoor areas.

Signs, matting, and crowd control solutions are a great way to keep social distancing on top of everyone’s mind and assist in executing. Many establishments have opted to line their checkout areas with floor mats so waiting patrons immediately know where they should stand to eliminate contact with others.

Safety shields and restaurant table partitions create a protective, sanitary barrier between patrons and staff during transactions and while dining in without prohibiting face to face interactions. There are several configurations available to fit the layout of various types of establishments, from hanging, to stand-alone and counter-mounted.

Be cognizant of your waiting area. Again, safe social distancing practices require everyone remain a distance of at least six feet from one another. This can create a challenge in communal waiting areas. Limit the number of people allowed inside your establishment at a time, and encourage patrons to wait outside or in the parking area. Make use of available technology to communicate when their table or order is ready. Many restaurants opt to use texting to alert customers when they’re ready to be seated.

Regularly Clean and Sanitize to Effectively Kill the Virus Before it Spreads

Introduce new procedures to your staff that clearly list the expectations to clean and sanitize, including how often and the appropriate steps to take to ensure every surface remains virus-free. Our Coronavirus Cleaning Procedures article outlines the required steps for both cleaning and sanitizing. When it comes to disinfecting, ensure you’re using a sanitizing solution with at least 70% alcohol.

Did you know that the COVID-19 coronavirus can live on stainless steel surfaces for up to three days? Therefore, it’s crucial to regularly clean and disinfect stainless steel prep surfaces. Our How to Disinfect Stainless Steel Surfaces to Effectively Kill the Coronavirus article outlines all the necessary steps to do so. We also encourage you to download our printable guide and hang in workspaces to maintain staff awareness.

The National Restaurant Association recommends the following best practices for cleaning and sanitizing upon reopening:

  • Thoroughly deep-clean and sanitize your entire facility, especially if it’s been closed. Focus on high-contact areas, but don’t overlook the seldom-touched surfaces.
  • Clean and sanitize tables, condiment areas, and anything that’s come into contact with your guests between each seating. Discard single-use items.
  • Remove lemons and unwrapped straws from self-service beverage stations.
  • Clean and sanitize reusable menus and throw out paper menus after each use.
  • Monitor your restrooms and clean and sanitize based on the frequency of use.
  • Install touchless hand sanitizing stands in your front of house, and make hand sanitizer formulated with at least 60% alcohol readily available to your customers.

Our cleaning kits include the essentials necessary to help your front and back-of-house remain clean and virus-free.

Monitor Personal Hygiene

Given how quickly this virus spreads from person to person, keeping an eye out on your wellbeing, as well as your staff’s, is a must. Employees who are sick or show any symptoms should stay at home. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that, at a minimum, the employee should remain in self-isolation for seven days from the onset of symptoms and be symptom-free for three days without any medication before returning to work. Some establishments have been requiring staff to submit to a pre-shift screening in which they take their temperatures using an infrared thermometer. Per the CDC, the minimum temperature that indicates fever is 100°F.

Frequent and thorough handwashing is also key to ensure no virus lingers on hands and won’t spread to others, and everyone should avoid touching their face. Our Handwashing Best Practices guide outlines when everyone should wash their hands, and how to do so effectively to prevent illness. We encourage you download our printable handwashing guide to hang in common areas to maintain awareness and encourage regular handwashing.

Note that washing hands with soap under hot running water is preferred to just using sanitizer alone. If you opt to use both, apply the sanitizer after washing and drying hands. If soap and clean, hot running water is not readily available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol as noted on the product label.

Face masks are also effective in reducing the risk of spread, especially in close-contact environments. Reusable face coverings should be kept clean at all times. 

Don’t Immediately Cancel Your Delivery and Takeout Services

When the severity of the COVID-19 coronavirus initially came to light, many establishments had to adapt their business model to offer new types of services, including delivery and curbside pickup. As the curve continues to lower and dine-in services start to return, we recommend continuing with these additional services, and strive to enhance their efficiency. Not only do they offer an extra source of revenue, but it’s likely many will be hesitant to start dining out in public at first. Continuing to offer an alternative to receive menu-favorites in a low-risk manner is a way to keep patrons coming back.

Furthermore, though we’d all like to remain optimistic about life returning to normal, it’s still a possibility this virus could peak again. It’s best to be prepared in the event it does. It’s ideal to continue stocking up on delivery and takeout essentials like disposable to-go boxes, bags, flatware, delivery solutions, shelving and signs to facilitate efficient pickup, safety barriers to protect staff and guests during transactions, and more.

Stock Up on Essentials: Solutions to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 While Keeping Your Business on Track

The right supplies can make all the difference in ensuring your business stays on track. These include, but are not limited to, face masks, sanitizers, cleaners and disinfectants, safety shields, signage and message mats, and disposables for delivery and takeout. We’ve compiled a series of bundled solutions so you won’t miss a beat.

Reopening Solutions

Prepare to reopen with these essentials, including cleaners and disinfectants, cashier safety shields, personal protection necessities like face masks and shields, hand sanitizing solutions, signs, and more.

Product Kits for Takeout and Delivery, Cleaning, Sanitizing, and More

Our bundled packages include all the necessities for efficient takeout and delivery operations, ensuring clean hands and environments, communicating expectations to patrons and staff, and protecting against the spread of the virus with protective coverings.

Distancing Signs, Mats, and Barriers

Practice safe social distancing by making it easy for guests to do so. Featuring distancing floor signs and mats, takeout signs and tents, informational graphics, traffic management and crowd control solutions, and more.

Outdoor Furniture

Utilize your outdoor areas to accommodate guests while maintaining safe distances. Our outdoor furniture solutions make it easy to optimize patio space, featuring patio fencing to establish barriers, as well as chairs, tables, heaters, and more.

100+ Items to Meet Your COVID-19 Product Needs

We’re continuously sourcing solutions to help you adapt and meet these new demands, including selections of hand sanitizers and touch-free dispensers, cleaners and disinfectants, face makes and gloves, safety shields, and more.

Related Resources

Central remains open to continue addressing your needs. Our product experts and customer services teams are accessible via phone, email, and chat. We also offer resources to help alleviate immediate financial burdens to ensure you’re still able to get what your business needs to thrive. These include equipment leasing and several payment options, such as free, no obligation net-30 terms, financing options, and more.

In addition to offering product solutions, we’re also committed to keeping our Resource Center up to date with helpful information to aid in navigating these unprecedented times.

State by State Reopening Guidelines

This article is intended to offer some hard-and-fast best practices for reopening. However, it’s important to note that every state has their own guidelines, and some health codes vary by area. This list is continuously updating to reflect as more states begin to reopen and additional information becomes available.