COVID-19 is the latest coronavirus that’s currently spreading across the globe. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that commonly circulate among humans, causing mild illnesses such as the common cold. COVID-19 is the latest strain that’s having a wide-ranging impact, readily spreading from person to person contact. Therefore, self-quarantine is currently the best preventative measure.

Bacteria on blue background

What is COVID-19?

The risk assessment is currently changing daily. Though many can catch this virus, there are some at a higher risk of more serious complications, including older adults and those who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart and lung disease, and diabetes. Though you may not fall under this high-risk population, COVID-19 is easy to catch and transmit to those who are. Therefore, precautionary measures are being mandated by many local and state governments, as well as recommended courses of action stemming from the federal level. These include limits to dining out, traveling, and attending large group gatherings.

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), current symptoms of COVID-19 include mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. If you are experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, or have been in close contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19, or who has recently traveled from an area with an ongoing spread, the CDC recommends you stay home and contact your healthcare provider. 

In addition to quarantining, frequent and thorough handwashing is highly recommended to kill bacteria and slow the spread. You can view CDC-recommended handwashing practices in our Crash Course on Food Safety.

What Can I Do With My Perishables?

According to the CDC, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has poor survivability on surfaces and is therefore not thought to spread as often through food items such as produce. You should still practice good hygiene and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before touching food items and after things like touching your face, using the restroom, and coughing/sneezing. You can continue to use perishables as normal keeping in mind best practices for health and safety when serving/cooking food.

How Can I Make Up for Lost In-House Revenue?

While this outbreak can put a strain on your business, especially if you are a small business owner. If your state has required you to close your storefront, it can mean a significant loss in revenue for your restaurant. It’s essential to utilize your communication with customers during this scary time – remind them that you care the most about their health and safety. Utilize things like carry-out, drive-through, and delivery to provide food for your customers still. Consider offering discounts for delivery, if you are able, to keep patrons ordering your food. Be sure to communicate continuously with your audience on social media and your website on the status of your operations. In this challenging time, everyone appreciates some clear communication!

Should I Close or Stay Open?

If your state has required you to stop dine-in service in your restaurant, there isn’t much you can do to continue to serve customers. Utilize delivery and take-out service if it is required to shut down dine-in service by the government as it can continue to provide a stream of revenue to your business. Depending on the state or country you are in, there may not yet be restrictions on your operations. If you still want to continue to serve dine-in for customers, we’ve compiled a list of pros and cons to doing so. 

Pros 

Cons 

  • Revenue stream 
  • No interruption to business operations 
  • Potentially will still lose business due to fear of disease spread 
  • Can risk perpetuating the spread of disease 
  • Harder to keep environment sanitary for employees and customers 
  • More stressful for employees coming into work 

How Should Restaurants Respond, and How Can They Help?

Restaurants and commercial food operations are seeing a major impact due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. Though the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have observed no evidence that the transmission of this latest strain of coronavirus is associated with food, it is widely reported the spread from person to person contact. Therefore, mandates from both the state and federal levels of government have been requiring restaurants to cease dine-in service.

Restaurant operators have a responsibility to put the health and wellbeing of their staff, customers, and themselves first. Therefore, they should abide by all recommendations and guidance provided by their city, state, and health officials. If your foodservice still requires staff onsite, continue to enforce frequent and thorough handwashing (our printable handwashing best practices chart can help!) and proper food safety practices.

As with all crisis situations, proactive communication is essential to reduce confusion and ease troubled minds. Transparency and timeliness of your response are key. Organizations such as the CDC, Small Business Administration (SBA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and more have resources to help you and your shareholders stay informed.

Since many states have already placed restrictions on dining out and large group activities, many restaurants are offering delivery and carry out services. These can help businesses cater to the needs of their community while continuing to bring in revenue and ensuring precautionary measures are met to reduce the rapid spread of COVID-19. Learn more about delivery services in our articles Why You Should Consider Using Restaurant Delivery Services and Delivery Only Kitchens. Looking at renting a shared kitchen can also help operators meet the demands of their community during this time.

What am I Legally Required to Do for Employees Taking Time Off?

State and federal officials are still working out how best to assist employees forced to take time off in light of ongoing events. The legality of taking care of employees is dependent on your state, but many states, such as Washington, have an Employment Security Department dedicated to providing resources to workers affected by this crisis.

Similarly, the U.S. Department of Labor is working to provide updated information and resources to help employers and employees facing public health emergencies.