States have begun to announce plans to reopen restaurants leveraging a framework from industry advocacy groups and guidelines from the White House. Reopening guidelines will be implemented on statewide or county-by-county basis at governors’ discretion.

Always look for the specific guidelines for the states and/or counties in which you operate. You can find specific information on your state’s operating status using this resource from the National Restaurant Association: State Action Center.

White House Guidelines for Opening Up America Again

The White House’s Phased Approach has 3 Goals:

  1. Use up-to-date data to reopen America
  2. Minimize the risk of resurgence
  3. Protect the most vulnerable

The White House’s Plan has 3 Criteria to Satisfy for Each Phase:

  1. Symptoms:
    • Downward trajectory of Flu-like and Covid-like cases in 14-day period.
  2. Cases:
    • Downward trajectory of documented cases in 14-day period.
  3. Hospitals:
    • Treat patients without crisis care & robust worker testing available.

Preparing Your Business to Reopen Dining Rooms

Each governor is expected to create a localized plan for re-opening which will vary based on local circumstances. Reoccurring themes in currently-available guidelines are outlined below to help you prepare for reopening dining rooms once your state and/or county allows it:

  • Food Safety
    • Follow all regulatory and legal standards for food-service.
    • Ensure manager is a certified food safety manager.
    • Use disposable ware when available; otherwise sanitize.
    • Condiments by request in single-use disposable packets; otherwise sanitized between parties.
    • Eliminate or modify self-serve stations based on local guidelines.
  • Cleaning and Sanitizing
    • Throughly detail-clean and sanitize entire restaurant — especially if you have been closed.
    • Clean and sanitize between seatings:
      • tables and chairs
      • table condiments
      • digital ordering devices
      • check presenters
      • common touch areas
    • Used rolled silverware instead of table presets.
    • Sanitize or provide disposable menus or use menu board.
    • Hourly touch-point sanitization (workstations, equipment, screens, doorknobs, etc.)
  • Crew Member Health & Hygiene
    • Implement a pre-work screen (detailed below).
    • Prohibit sick crew members in the workplace.
    • Follow strict hand washing practices.
    • Note: taking crew members’ temperatures is at the operator’s discretion. The CDC has not mandated taking temperatures (and we are not generally recommending this to our clients).
    • Masks or face coverings for crew members .
  • Social Distancing
    • Post signage at the entrance that explains your social distancing guidelines and requests that customers with a fever not enter.
    • Social distancing protocol for customers and crew members.
    • Minimize direct contact between customers and crew members.
    • Lower overall capacity.
    • Limit tables to small groups / household members only.
    • Reservations only.
Restaurant rules customers will accept based on data gathered by Datassential.

Crew Member Health Screenings

What kind of questions should you ask? Stick to yes and no question to balance needed necessary health information and respecting crew member health privacy.

  • Do you have any of these symptoms: fever, aches, cough, shortness of breath?
  • Have you come in contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19?
  • Are you currently waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test?
  • Have you traveled outside of the area in the last 14 days?
  • Do you understand your responsibility to not come to work if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have recently come into contact with someone who has COVID-19?
  • Do you understand your responsibility to comply with our health and sanitation standards?

In an ideal setting, you could ask these questions through your scheduling software and/or your point of sale system. If anyone answers yes to the health-specific questions, you should triage their specific information and guide them on next steps. The FDA has provided guidance for COVID-19 positive workers here.


Closing Thoughts

  • This isn’t a race to reopen — it’s a race to survive. Open your dining room when it makes business sense — not because your state or local government says you can.
  • Be prepared to protect and police your customers and crew members. Safeguarding livelihoods has to be balanced with safeguarding lives. Your customers will likely need your team’s help to understand the How & Why of your reopening. Train your crew members to be their guide.

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