As several southern states—including Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee—get ready to reopen their economies even as the coronavirus pandemic continues, some restaurant operators have the opportunity to resume dine-in services within mandated or recommended limitations. The National Restaurant Association has issued guidance to help restaurants reopen for business while adhering to best practices for the safety and health of their employees and customers.
“Our goal with this first version [of the guide] is to help restaurants open safely and to reassure the public that social gathering for a meal is, again, a safe activity,” the association stated on its website.
The guide covers food safety; cleaning and sanitizing; employee health monitoring and personal hygiene; and social distancing. It offers the following tips for reopening your restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Update floor plans for dining areas with redesigned seating arrangements to ensure at least six feet of separation between tables.
- Consider a reservations-only model or call-ahead seating to reduce crowds and better ensure space between diners.
- Post signage at the entrance announcing that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19 is permitted in the restaurant.
- Limit contact between waitstaff and guests. Consider requiring waitstaff to wear masks or face coverings if they have direct contact with guests.
- If practical, place physical barriers—such as partitions or Plexiglass barriers—at registers.
- Use technology solutions that reduce person-to-person interaction, such as mobile ordering and menu tablets, text-on-arrival for seating and contactless payment options.
- In addition to detail-cleaning and sanitizing frequently touched areas, do the same for seldom-touched surfaces.
- Between seatings, clean and sanitize table condiments, digital ordering devices, check presenters, self-service areas, tabletops and commonly touched areas.
- Discard single-use items and consider using rolled silverware and eliminating table presets.
- Clean and sanitize reusable menus and discard paper menus after each use.
- Make hand sanitizer regularly available to guests, preferably through touchless hand-sanitizing solutions.
Not everyone is on board with reopening restaurants and other businesses. According to USA Today, mayors of some Georgia cities have said they were blindsided by Governor Brian Kemp’s decision to reopen the state’s economy, especially since Georgia has not seen a 14-day downward trajectory in the rate of new coronavirus cases. And some prominent Georgia restaurateurs, such as Chef Hugh Acheson and Food Network star Willie Degel, say it’s too soon to reopen and they won’t do so yet.
“Being that we’re more of a middle-serve, finer-dining restaurant, I’m going to wait on the sidelines and see how customers are reacting,” Degel, owner of Uncle Jack’s Meat House in Duluth, Georgia, told CNBC. He said his company had surveyed customers and found that the majority would be hesitant to dine in right away, while 35% to 40% would do so with additional space between tables and other safety measures in place.
Kemp issued an executive order earlier this week with requirements for how restaurants can reopen during the pandemic starting on Monday. As WSB-TV reports, these requirements include:
- No more than 10 customers per 500 square feet are allowed inside at once and party size is limited to no more than six per table
- All employees must wear masks at all times
- Workers must be screened for any signs of illness
- Posted signs should make it clear no one with symptoms of the coronavirus can enter
- No salad bars and buffets are allowed
- Patrons must be kept separated while waiting to be seated, either through floor markings or by waiting in their cars.