What will the new restaurant normal post COVID19 look like?
My wife and I saw a potential glimpse at what a new restaurant normal post COVID19 could look like. We had been socially distancing in Florida and began a road trip to Colorado. We hadn’t eaten in any restaurants for 7 weeks. Days before, Florida restaurants opened their doors for outdoor seating. After looking at the DiningGrades.com health department inspections, we chose Barracks Fish House in Pensacola. We approached the open-air seating hostess stand with masks on. The two greeters wore masks. On the way to the outdoor table, our hostess suggested we use a wall mounted hand sanitizer. We were given one-time use paper menus. Our server and all staff wore the same style and color mask. As customers left, staff sprayed the table and chairs with a sanitizer. I was so impressed I complimented the manager and the Director of Operations.
Our second stop was Brickhouse Grill, another DiningGrades.com A graded restaurant, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It was restaurant opening day in Hot Springs. A TV reporter and cameraman were interviewing the owner. I was equally impressed with their attention to sanitation. A couple of important differences were noted.
1) the waitress made a point of telling us that all condiment items had been removed from the table. Less risk of customer contamination and less effort for the staff to need to clean.
2) Each menu was cleaned with a sanitizing solution after use.
Similarly, I complimented the owner. Appreciating my compliments, she offered that customers were supposed to wear masks until ready to drink or eat, but it was difficult to enforce. They had been supplied health department masks for customers.
If this is the new restaurant normal post COVID19, what did we learn? And what can be emulated?
- Signs: Having a polite hostess reminder sign suggesting customers who are sick should stay home is welcoming but firm.
- Masks: Everyone wearingthe same style,facility standard cloth mask looks like there is a facility wide plan.
- Hand sanitizer: Reminding customers to use sanitizer on entering reduces contamination risk. Optimally it should be prominently available and encouraged for use by all entering customers.
- Sanitizing tables: A sanitizing spray bottle implies a sanitation plan to reduce contamination. A wet cloth seems inadequate.
- Sanitize menus or use throw-away menus: Either works. But single use throw-away menus implya planned approach to reduce contamination.
- Distancing between tables: Everyone knows the six-foot rule. Occupied seating and tables need to maintain six feet distancing. Unfortunately, this means lower occupancy or more outdoor seating.
- Table condiments: Removing table items reduces contamination risk. Items normally on the table should optimally be removed and available on request.
- Gloves: Wearing gloves is great PR. Everyone knows washed hands are not sterile. Gloves keep potentially dirty hands from touching anything.Even if contaminated, gloves are easier to wash than contaminated hands.
Opportunities for improvement:
- Payment: Credit cards and community pens carry contamination risk. Perhaps single use pens with advertising? Explore technological advances for risk reduction.
- Entry or restroom doors: Sanitize frequently. Make them automatic or swing both ways.
- Toilet stool or sink handles: Sanitize frequently. Automatic flushersor sink handles are the ultimate answer.
DiningSafetyAlliance.org is offering a “Serving Food Safely” course for the Front of the House staff. Staff can access it for free. Or management can claim their restaurant on DiningGrades.com then encourage staff to take the course by email invitation. Most importantly management can monitor course and a quiz completion on a convenient dashboard.