Restaurants may be closed to dine-in customers, but many remain open for takeout or delivery orders. In this time of uncertainty, many people are wondering, “Just how safe is takeout?” Fortunately, there is no evidence of the coronavirus being transmitted by food or food packaging. This means that it is highly unlikely someone can catch the virus by eating a meal prepared or handled by someone in your kitchen.
However, there are steps restaurant owners can take to help ensure the health of their staff, and to reinforce for customers that ordering food from a restaurant is safe.
Health precautions for employees
Employee health is always important, but it’s now absolutely critical for restaurant owners to make sure that they and their staff are following best practices when it comes to hygiene.
To ensure that your healthy employees stay that way, consider following these precautions at your restaurant:
- Instruct any employees who feel sick to stay home. No exceptions.
- Take the temperature of staff members when they report to work to make sure they don’t have a fever, one of the early warning signs of a potential COVID-19 infection.
- Remind employees to follow CDC guidelines by frequently washing their hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently, especially high-touch areas.
- Require employees to wear masks, gloves, and to maintain social distancing—staying at least six feet apart from one another.
- Routinely clean and sanitize cooler and insulated bags used for food deliveries.
- Protect your delivery drivers by offering contactless deliveries. This means drivers can call or text customers to alert them when they arrive, then simply leave the food at the customer’s front door, eliminating the risks posed by a face-to-face interaction.
Try to make time for regular staff meetings to check in with employees and make sure they feel safe at work, and address any concerns they may have. Encourage your staff to share any extra safety tips they may have implemented on their own that could benefit other team members. This can help build camaraderie and boost morale during a stressful time for staff.
Keeping customers safe
Help protect your valued guests and help them feel secure in placing an order at your restaurant by implementing these policies:
- Limit the number of customers you allow in your restaurant at one time. Establish designated pick-up zones for customers to help maintain social distancing between employees and customers.
- Encourage adequate spacing between customers waiting in line to place or pick up an order, and request that they wear masks while inside your establishment. Depending on your area, this may already be required by city and/or state ordinances.
- If you have your own delivery drivers, train them on proper hand washing techniques. That way you can feel confident that everyone in contact with a guest’s meal is following proper safety protocols.
- If you allow pickups from third-party delivery drivers, consider providing them with hand sanitizer as well as sanitizing wipes for their takeout bag.
- Allow customers to pay (and tip) in advance to minimize their contact with your staff while picking up their order, or placing a delivery order.
- If customers do pay inside, encourage them to use the tap-to-pay option (if you’re POS system supports that). Otherwise, provide each customer with a new pen to sign credit card receipts. After each use, pens should be placed in a designated area so they can be disinfected before the next use.
One way you can set customers’ minds at ease is by being upfront about what precautions your restaurant is taking to keep them safe. You can post this information on your website, social media, and/or in an insert in the delivery bag. Sharing a few photos of masked, gloved employees on your social sites can demonstrate your commitment to safety, and give customers a chance to feel that they are still connected to your staff, even if they can’t enjoy a meal in your dining room (for the time being).
While we’re talking safety, if you’d like to learn some helpful tips for choosing and safely maintaining equipment for your kitchen, download our free e-book, “Restaurant Equipment: Keeping it Safe, Efficient, and Profitable.”