As businesses gradually reopen post-COVID-19, many people are eager to return to their normal social activities. Although restaurant owners have experienced high numbers in 2019, the recent pandemic brings concerns about lower sales and employment levels despite new regulations and standards. Customers reviewing new government reopening requirements for restaurants may find them daunting and impenetrable. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released new guidelines for restaurants and other related businesses focusing on higher standards for employees and owners around handwashing, food preparation, cleaning, and social distancing.
Understanding the CDC Reopening Guidelines
CDC reopening guidelines cover cleaning and disinfecting practices through a wide range of businesses, including health care, schools, and other businesses. These guidelines include evaluating the professional space for potential infection; crafting and executing a plan for cleaning and disinfecting key areas with specific products, and appropriate social/physical distancing measures (including employee behaviors like wearing masks and gloves, handwashing policies, and frequent cleaning/disinfection practices). CDC Guidelines for Reopening are geared towards encouraging businesses to take a preventative and proactive stance to ensure employee and customer safety.
For savvy restaurant customers, CDC Reopening Guidelines provide a great checklist for those who want to head out to their favorite restaurant. Contacting a favorite restaurant before visiting and asking these questions can help them make a more informed decision:
- How frequently do you clean your restaurant?
- Does your restaurant follow appropriate physical and social distancing guidelines?
- Are you offering outdoor seating?
- How often do your employees (both kitchen and wait staff) wash their hands?
- Do you have a handwashing policy for your staff?
Being prepared to answer these questions can help restaurants and other related businesses increase their sales numbers in a safe, considerate manner. Although the CDC Reopening Guidelines specify multiple types of businesses, the Food & Drug Administration Reopening Guidelines make specific provisions to restaurants and other food-related businesses.
FDA Guidelines in Plain English
Unlike the CDC’s recommendations, the Food and Drug Administration Reopening Guidelines deal more directly with food-oriented businesses like restaurants and retail stores. FDA guidelines are more specific towards both food handling procedures and employee behaviors (including handwashing). This infographic provides a summary of recommendations for restaurants and other food retailers to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 and ensure the health and welfare of their customers. These recommendations include guidelines around social/physical distancing, pick-up and delivery procedures, cleaning and disinfection practices, and employee wellness strategies.
Unlike the CDC Reopening Guidelines, FDA rules have more specific guidelines around employee handwashing and food handling. According to FDA guidelines, employees are encouraged to wash their hands for twenty (20) seconds in specific situations such as pre-meals, coughing or sneezing, or before bathroom use. Hands should always be washed with soap and water, with hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content as an alternative.
Employees handling food are encouraged to take a “No Bare Hand Contact” approach by wearing gloves and avoiding direct contact with food items. Handwashing is encouraged after sneezing or coughing into a tissue, and employees are encouraged to stay home when feeling too sick to work.
Understanding the FDA Guidelines can impact how restaurants and food-related businesses engage their customers. Developing policies around cleaning/sanitation, employee wellness (especially hand hygiene and personal care), and encouraging “no-touch” deliveries can assure more hesitant customers that you are taking the appropriate precautions. Despite additional effort and expense, following CDC and FDA reopening guidelines can foster stronger word-of-mouth recommendations from customers. Research suggests that cleanliness is a deciding factor when dining out, even more so in light of COVID-19.
Although CDC and FDA reopening guidelines may appear daunting, restaurants have an opportunity to not only engage their customers but grow their sales after a difficult period.