Atlanta Restaurants Step Up Sanitation Efforts to Curb Coronavirus Fears

COVID-19 , Operations , Public Health ,

Source: Eater Atlanta

Atlanta restaurants are currently stepping up disinfecting and social distancing measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Some restaurants are going to great lengths to allay fears and ensure the safety of employees and patrons by removing tables to create more space between people, temporarily going cashless, or offering delivery through third-party services.

Events like next week’s High Museum wine auction, its annual fundraiser, have been cancelled. Food vendors at State Farm Arena and Mercedes-Benz stadium face financial uncertainties, following the suspension of the NBA and Major League soccer seasons and cancellation of the Final Four at the Benz in April.

Many Atlanta restaurants are being proactive and taking to social media to publicly lay out the extra precautions they’re taking to sanitize kitchens and dining rooms, as well as other preventative measures.

Castellucci Hospitality Group, which owns the Iberian PigBar Mercado, and Cooks and Soldiers, plans to go cashless temporarily, remove tables and barstools to create more space between diners, and provide more accessibility to hand-washing stations beyond the restrooms. This is in addition to regularly wiping down surfaces and not allowing sick employees to work by offering them paid leave.

Spiller Park Coffee owner Dale Donchey hopes the extra precautions his coffee shops at Ponce City Market and in Toco Hills are taking pays off, including additional sanitation measures and not permitting reusable, personal mugs.

“We held a two-hour meeting last night to cover everything from hand-washing, surface lifespan of the virus, washing work cloths, to what paid leave and using vacation time would look like if someone had to quarantine,” Donchey tells Eater Atlanta.

Hell Yeah Gluten Free owner Alejandra Luaces is taking no chances with how the Inman Park bakery handles COVID-19. Cash is temporarily no longer being accepted, employees will be given seven paid days off if they become ill or quarantined, and the bakery is “obsessively” cleaned multiple times a day.

“Our community is potentially immunosuppressed in many ways, so I’m taking it really seriously,” Luaces says. Several of Hell Yeah’s employees and customers live with autoimmune diseases and deficiencies.

A reader tells Eater she was at an Atlanta area Chick-Fil-A this week where the restaurant had stopped using reusable plastic trays and seat markers. Food orders were placed in takeout bags to minimize the frequency and number of items diners and employees touched.

The Alden in Chamblee hired a global infectious disease expert to help consult on best practices, beyond providing single-use menus and hand sanitizers coupled with regular hand washing.

Hand sanitizer dispensers have been installed at every lane at the Comet Pub and Lanes in Decatur. The bowling alley says it continually cleans and disinfects the restaurant, bar, lanes, and bowling balls with isopropyl alcohol.

MTH Pizza and Muss and Turners in Smyrna now offer tissues and hand sanitizers at entry and exit points throughout the restaurants, in addition to removing shared condiments, like ketchup, from tables and eliminating self-serve water and tea stations. The Consulate in Midtown practices “smudging,” or burning sage, after the restaurant closes. The ancient ceremonial practice supposedly purifies the air. Although, that has never been medically proven.

Even Atlanta food trucks like Blaxican are taking extra precautions. The truck no longer takes cash and now uses a credit card reader for payment.

All of these extra measures taken on by Atlanta’s restaurants come on top of the guidelines required or recommended by local health agencies, the Georgia Department of Public Health, and best practices from the Georgia Restaurant Association.

There are now 31 confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases in Georgia, as of Thursday, March 12. Governor Brian Kemp is urging the elderly, those with weakened immune systems, and individuals who are sick to avoid large crowds.

No state or citywide ban of large gatherings has been instituted in Georgia. However, the governor asked schools and daycare facilities to consider closing, beginning Friday, March 13, for two weeks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in communities throughout the state. All metro Atlanta area schools close for at least two weeks, starting Monday, March 16, as does Georgia’s state universities and colleges like UGA, Georgia Tech, and Georgia State.

Eater Atlanta wants to know what readers are seeing and how they are feeling while dining out around town. Hit us up on the tipline.

NOTE: The novel coronavirus situation in Georgia is fluid and ongoing. Eater Atlanta continues to follow its impact on Atlanta’s restaurant industry. Additional stories are forthcoming.