Even though we may not know everything about COVID-19, we do possess a better understanding of how to mitigate its spread. For any restaurant to open, necessary protocols should be in place to ensure the safety of guests. We know COVID-19 is not airborne and is transmitted by contact with an infected person via respiratory droplets. Unlike bacteria, which is self-sufficient, a virus cannot replicate itself on or travel across dead skin cells on a person's body. A virus needs to hijack living cells to replicate. The virus needs a pathway beyond the skin's surface. Transmission can happen in several ways. We could inhale droplets from an infected person after they sneeze or cough, or possibly through regular communication. We could also touch a surface tainted with the virus and then rub our eyes or touch our face, providing a perfect entrance through our eyes, nose, or mouth. A virus can also gain access through cuts and abrasions on any part of the body, including under fingernails. Hence the continual prodding of hand cleansing and abstention of touching the face. These facts are vital to preparing a secure environment for customers of any retail business or restaurant.
Below we have provided a list of recommendations based upon information found on the CDC website and others regarding COVID-19.
1. Appoint one person as the bathroom attendant to monitor the bathroom areas; this will limit
exposure to multiple people and ensures some integrity. Assigning several people to the task,
rotating several times throughout the day, may give way to error, and is less controllable. The
bathroom attendant is responsible for sanitizing items within the bathrooms that are typically
handled by a customer after each use. Such items include Toilet Seats, Tank & Handles, Countertops,
Soap dispensers, and Stall Door Handles. If there are Dividers, they will need to sanitized too. To
ease the workload, this might create while mitigating the spread of viruses, utilize disposable
toilet seat covers if available to replace the wiping of seats. Place notes on each stall, asking
customers to refrain from touching dividers or anything else other than the handles to flush
toilets, open stall doors, and the soap dispensers. It will help people be more cognitive of
protecting one another and aid as reminders for the bathroom attendant. Not every disinfectant kills
viruses in a suitable time frame, say 2 or 3 minutes. The CDC website sends people to the EPA
website to view a list of APPROPRIATE DISINFECTANTS. One could spend hours looking these products up,
though, and many are not available to use as a spray. You may want to consider Simple
Green Clean Finsh. The product can be sprayed on a non-porous surface and wiped off within 30
seconds with a damp paper towel and dried. It kills 99.9% of bacteria within 5 seconds, so the
manufacture says, and the Influenza virus and more within 30 seconds. Take a moment to view details
provided by the manufacture. You may also want to mount a disinfectant dispenser right outside the
bathroom door for customers to use before entering the bathroom, thus offering some protection
against a person who may be asymptomatic.
You could circumvent the entire process described above and safeguard bathroom areas from viruses by utilizing UVC lighting. If you are thinking of utilizing UVC lighting, there are several things to consider. Industrial UVC lighting has been used commercially for years in disinfecting all types of low and high traffic areas during times when unoccupied by people. Exposure to UVC lighting is harmful to humans. Columbia University's research using single-wavelength UVC high-intensity light has been effective at killing viruses and is safe for humans. Far-UVC Lamps are in production by several companies, but it may be a while before the product is available to businesses. Source: Columbia University. Using commercial UVC lighting to eradicate viruses can be a viable option but comes with some limitations. For UVC to effectively penetrate and either render the virus incapable of replicating or kill it within a short period of a couple of minutes, UVC lighting must be confined to a small area no more than 5 feet from the surface needing sanitization. You may need to mount 4 Germicidal Lamps side by side on the ceiling covering no more than 75 square feet. Many Bathrooms in restaurants are much larger, so you may need as many four lamps at each end of the bathroom. You can order these bulbs from many vendors; however, they are in big demand right now and are becoming scarce. Lamp pricing ranges from $12 per lamp to $27. You want to go with 40" lamps with at least 40 watts having UVC output of at least 13+ Watts. We searched many websites for products and found that you can conceivably spend as little as $550 for Lamps, Fixtures, and Ballasters for a bathroom. You cannot have a light switch inside the bathroom, giving customers access to the on-off mechanism. You need to higher an electrician to configure the lighting controls outside the bathroom, preferably in a place that only staff has access to or control it remotely. Best bet, ask your electrician to order what you need to get the job done and beware of companies charging exorbitant prices. We took a company off this page because we found that they add new meaning to the words, price gouging. Either way, you could spend as little as a thousand dollars to create an environment where you can utilize UVC light to sanitize bathroom areas safely. Once completed, it is certainly easier to flip a switch every five or ten minutes in between bathroom usage rather than having an attendant go spraying and wiping everything down after each use. Please note: Under no circumstances should people be present during sanitizing a bathroom with UVC.
Whichever you choose, for any of this to work as it should, you need to limit bathroom use to one person at a time. Place a note on the bathroom doors informing customers that you are limiting bathroom use. Your bathroom attendant, stationed right outside, can manage the process. ( DON'T PUT NOTES UP OF ANY KIND TYPED IN TWELVE POINT TEXT ). Think signage. You want people to be able to read and see everything at a glance without having to put reading glasses on.
2. Separate your dining tables by 6 or 7 feet, not 4 or 5. If storage is limited, remove any condiments and other items from every other table and place a table tent in the center alerting customers that seating is not permitted at that table. Why? It helps keep your staff cognitive of what has to be done as well as letting customers know you are taking all the necessary steps to provide a secure environment.
3. If your restaurant has several booths, it may be difficult or unfeasible to discard every other booth. One option to creating a safe environment for guests under these circumstances may be to install backing, as seen in the picture below. You will want to make sure the backing is at least 24 inches tall using the standard booth sizes. Obviously, acrylic would be the best thing to use; however, if funds are incredibly tight, there are a variety of inexpensive materials that can be used, including white or colored foam boards.
4. Before seating a guest, the table should be sanitized using a product such as Simple Green mentioned above or a similar product following all manufactured guidelines. Spray the table and let sit for the specified time, then use a fresh, damp paper towel to remove the sanitizing agent and then a clean paper to dry the surface. It is important to note; even if a cleaning solution does not kill viruses on contact, cleaning a surface well and removing any biological entities accomplishes the task of keeping the customers and staff safe. Don't wipe tables with a reusable cloth. Have staff members use clean disposable paper towels, not to be reused.
5. Consider assigning your hostess with the task of cleaning menus after each use using the same cleaning agent used for the tabletops and fresh paper towels.
6. Mount a hand sanitizer by the outside door of the kitchen entrance and right next to the POS system, hostess stand, and behind the bar, if you have one. Staff should be directed to use the dispenser after they clean menus, serve food to a customer, or remove dirty dishes from a table. Finding automatic wall-mounted hand sanitizer units may be difficult right now. However, we were able to speak to a gentleman by the name of Grady Adams of Katom restaurant supply, located in TN. There are some units available with a two and a half week turn around time. It's worth mentioning that KaTom can also supply restaurants with disposable masks. Call 800-541-8683 and speak to Mr. Adams. Mention Palm Beach Cuisine, and he will know what products to reference.
7. It is recommended that wait staff wear a suitable mask when serving food to the public, especially to our most vulnerable citizens.
8. Temporarily avoid the use of ceiling fans. Fans can indeed become a catalyst for moving a virus from one table to another after a person sneezes or coughs.
9. Reposition air conditioning vent diverters, so the air is not blowing right upon customer tables. You can also buy add-on air conditioning vent deflectors as well to direct cooled air away from customers. Another great tool for fighting viruses & bacteria is UV lighting. You can purchase UV lighting from several vendors that can be installed next to the evaporator coils of your air conditioning unit and even inside air ducts. There is scientific evidence that UV lighting kills bacteria and viruses quicker than most disinfectants can. And although COVID-19 is not airborne, some believe it can remain in the air for several hours. Your air conditioning maintenance provider should be able to handle the task. It is not that difficult to install UV lighting yourself if need be, and as long as the lighting is positioned to cover every inch of the coils, you're all set.
10. It is also recommended that you post signage on the front door of the restaurant, and your website alerting customers to the protocols you have established. Many customers will inevitably ask you questions about what you may be doing to provide a safe environment. Seeing signage on your door will go a long way to making many of them feel confident about dining with you.
If your customers feel you are taking all the necessary steps to keep them safe, they will enjoy themselves and let others know about their experience. Everyone needs to take this seriously. Restauranteurs need to be ready to reopen their establishments. And for anybody who might be thinking the suggestions here are over the top, consider what would happen if only a few people shouted out that they caught a virus after dining at your restaurant. It could be more catastrophic than the initial shut down.