The United States National Restaurant Association and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) each recently released new guidelines for restaurants and cafes seeking to operate responsibly or reopen entirely as the COVID-19 response unfolds.
While representing two different populations — the nonprofit NRA working on behalf of its restaurant industry membership, and the FDA ostensibly working on behalf of all American people as a federal agency — both groups said their goal was essentially to provide guidelines and best practices for restaurant and cafe operators for “when the time comes” to be open.
National Restaurant Association COVID Reopening Guidance
Available for free with registration, the National Restaurant Association’s “Covid Reopening Guidance” report was compiled with input from the FDA and from members of academia, the public health sector and the restaurant industry, according to the group.
While promoting the group’s own ServSafe food handling training and certificate program, the document covers the basics of food safety, cleaning and sanitizing, monitoring employee health and personal hygiene, and social distancing.
While most of those categories poach advice straight from the FDA, CDC or other existing food safety guidelines, the latter category on social distancing is likely to require the most ingenuity on the part of business owners. Among the recommendations are:
- Update floor plans for common dining areas, redesigning seating arrangements to ensure at least six feet of separation between table setups.
- Try not to allow guests to congregate in waiting areas or bar areas. Design a process to ensure guests stay separate while waiting to be seated. The process can include floor markings, outdoor distancing, waiting in cars, etc.
- Remind third-party delivery drivers and any suppliers that you have internal distancing requirements.
- Use technology solutions where possible to reduce person-to-person interaction: mobile ordering and menu tablets; text on arrival for seating; contactless payment options.
The complete list of recommendations can be found here, and the group said the document will be regularly updated. Said the Association, “Our goal with this first version is to help restaurants open safely and to reassure the public that social gathering for a meal is, again, a safe activity.”
FDA Best Practices for Retail Food Stores, Restaurants and Food Pick Up/Delivery Services
Available here in multiple languages, the FDA best practices document offers more stern guidelines related to food handling, employee safety.
In the latter category, the document routinely points to the CDC’s interim guidelines for safety practices regarding critical workers, which suggests measures such as always wearing a protective mask or face covering, and pre-screening employees by taking their temperature and assessing symptoms prior to work.
In addition to details on health assessments and monitoring, cleaning and disinfecting practices and social distancing practices, the document includes an entire section on best practices for managing food pickup and delivery, which has become a common occurrence at thousands of coffee shops throughout the United States.
The complete document can be found here.