Georgia Restaurant Association releases guidelines for reopening

COVID-19 ,

Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle

With the state's eateries permitted to reopen their dining rooms April 27, the Georgia Restaurant Association has released social-distancing and sanitation guidelines to prevent further spread of Covid-19.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced the reopening date during an April 20 press conference. Many restaurateurs have expressed concern over the idea of resuming dine-in service, through some businesses, such as Ruth's Chris Steak House and Waffle House are planning to proceed on April 27 or shortly thereafter.

In an email to GRA members, chief executive officer Karen Bremer said the organization "worked with the National Restaurant Association, representatives of the Food and Drug Administration, academia, the Conference for Food Protection, Ecolab, public health officials and industry representatives to develop a set of opening and operating guidelines specific to Georgia to help restaurants return to full operation safely when the time comes."

"This guidance is designed to provide you with a basic summary of recommended practices that can be used to help mitigate exposure to the Covid-19 virus, including: food safety, cleaning and sanitizing, employee health, and social distancing," Bremer wrote. "We trust each individual restaurant will use the resources provided to make a responsible choice that is best for their business and their community."

Restaurant owners can obtain the guidelines, which are conveyed in a 10-page document, by filling out a GRA request form. The organization has further resources related to navigating the pandemic published on its website.

Some key points of the document include:

General operations

  • Where practicable, take-out and curbside pick-up services should be prioritized over dine-in services.
  • Restaurants should implement staggered shifts for all possible workers.
  • Discontinue the use of salad bars and buffets.
  • Restaurants that offer “grab and go” service should stock coolers to no more than minimum levels.

Sanitation

  • Restaurants should thoroughly detail-clean and sanitize entire facility, especially if it has been closed. Focus on high-contact areas that would be touched by both employees and guests. Do not overlook seldom-touched surfaces. Follow sanitizing material guidance to ensure it’s at effective sanitizing strength and to protect surfaces.
  • Avoid all food contact surfaces when using disinfectants.
  • Between seatings, clean and sanitize table condiments, digital ordering devices, check presenters, self-service areas, tabletops and common-touch areas. Single-use items should be discarded. Use rolled silverware and eliminate table presets.
  • Remove items from self-service drink, condiment, utensil and tableware stations. Have workers provide items to patrons directly wherever practicable.
  • Clean and sanitize reusable menus. Those that use paper menus should discard them after each customer use.
  • Implement procedures to increase frequency of cleaning and sanitizing back-of-house surfaces.
  • Frequently check and ensure adequate supply of soap dispenser and towels.
  • Make hand sanitizer readily available to guests and consider touchless hand sanitizing solutions.

Employee health

  • If an employee becomes ill or presents signs of illness, the operator should identify the signs during a pre-work screening, employee should be sent home. If employee has suspected or confirmed Covid-19, employee must self-isolate for at least seven days. After seven days, employee must be fever free and symptom free for three consecutive days without medication before returning to work.
  • Taking employees’ temperatures is at the operators’ discretion. The CDC has not mandated taking an employee’s temperature and any operator who chooses to do so should engage health officials first and adopt policies aligned with proper procedures. CDC guidance states the minimum temperature that indicates a fever is 100°F.
  • Require all employees wear face coverings at all times. Face coverings should be cleaned and replaced daily.

Social distancing

  • Update floor plans for common dining areas, redesigning seating arrangements to ensure at least six feet of separation between table setups. Limit party size at tables to no more than six people. Where practical, especially in booth seating, physical barriers are acceptable. Consider a reservations-only business model or call-ahead seating to better space diners.
  • No more than 10 patrons should be allowed in facility per 500 square feet of public space. Calculating public space includes waiting and bar areas, but not hallways, restrooms, and spaces closed to patrons.
  • Remind third-party delivery drivers and any suppliers that you have internal distancing requirements.
  • Post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of Covid-19 is to be permitted in the restaurant.
  • Limit contact between waitstaff and guests and increased physical space between workers and patrons.
  • Prohibit handshaking and other unnecessary person-to-person contact in the workplace.
  • If practical, physical barriers such as partitions or Plexiglas barriers at registers are acceptable.
  • Use technology solutions where possible to reduce person-to-person interaction: mobile ordering and menu tablets, text on arrival for seating, contactless payment options.

In a statement, the GRA showed support for Kemp's decision to allow the resumption of dine-in service:

"The Georgia Restaurant Association appreciates Gov. Kemp’s support of our restaurant community. The safety, health and well-being of Georgia's restaurant owners, workers and guests has always been the absolute top priority of our organization. We ask that restaurants and diners follow recommendations set by the Office of the Governor, the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health. During this transitional period we are all in, Georgia's restaurants request respect, patience and understanding with regards to the pace of reopening. Some may be ready and choose to welcome diners on April 27, while many will need additional time to confirm their individual supply chain, restart new operational standards, and ensure the safety of their staff and guests."