State governments continue to implement procedures in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19)
. Some restaurants have shut down or severely limit their dine-in facilities. Restaurants are shifting to carry out and delivery procedures to keep business going, but consumers have questions surrounding food delivery services, such as:
- Is ordering take out or getting food delivered to my home safe?
- Can I get coronavirus from food?
Restaurant Safety During the Coronavirus Crisis
As dining rooms across the country close to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, many restaurants are quickly adapting to offer take out and delivery services. This helps keep money coming into the business, and it provides a means to keep employees working during these uncertain times, too.
Consumers are questioning if take out food is safe during the coronavirus. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
, there is currently no evidence of food being associated with COVID-19 transmission. On top of the extra measures now in place due to COVID-19, restaurants are already highly regulated by city and state health officials and should have protocols in place to avoid spreading viruses. If you are unsure of a restaurant’s food handling procedures, check with your local health department’s website.
The greater transmission risks from coronavirus are mostly associated with interacting with other people and contaminated surfaces.
Tips for Safe Carry Out and Delivery for Restaurants
Matt Zender, vice president and workers’ compensation product manager at AmTrust Financial, explains, “The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) just released an alert with safety tips for restaurants and food and beverage businesses
to protect their workers from coronavirus exposure while they provide curbside pickup and delivery services. Restaurants need to practice extreme caution every day, but more so during the COVID-19 crisis.”
- Set up a contactless delivery program: Many restaurants are developing a contactless delivery program to minimize the risk of exposure to the virus. Ask the customer for specific directions to deliver the food, such as leaving it on a porch or doorstep.
- Follow hygiene best practices: The most important way to protect yourself from the virus is to practice good hygiene. The most successful way of preventing the spread of the virus is to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after touching potentially contaminated surfaces. If soap and water are not available, such as after delivery, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Also, do not touch your face with unwashed hands. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or if that isn’t available a bent elbow. Then immediately wash your hands afterward. Do not allow anyone with the virus symptoms to work.
- Establish a dedicated takeout area: Designate a specific area inside the restaurant for customer pickup. Make sure that you have clear signage posted that directs patrons where to get their orders. For restaurants that are still open, the take out area should not be in the direct path with other customers. Ideally, there will be separate entry and exit doors.
- Stagger pickup times: Be careful that your take out area doesn’t result in a crowded gathering of people. Ask customers to place orders over the phone or online and provide them with a pickup time rather than allowing a long line to form. Some restaurants in New York have had issues with lines violating social distancing guidelines.
- Develop a customer payment process: Develop a procedure to handle the cash or credit transactions to limit human interaction. Card payments might be handled during the phone order rather than at the delivery point. When payment is handled onsite, using a long tray to pass objects back and forth or setting change or receipts down, and stepping back to maintain the 6 feet distance zone adds a layer of safety for the restaurant employee, delivery person and the customer.
- Disinfect all surfaces: All surfaces should be disinfected, with special attention made to door handles, cooking equipment handles, debit/credit card machines, counters and any other surfaces for the safety of both employees and customers.
- Check for accurate orders: Establish a dedicated expediter who is responsible for double-checking every take out or delivery order before it goes out to make sure the order is correct. Order errors can lead to lost efficiency, refunds and bad customer service.
- Provide extra training: In this time of change, make sure that every staff member who is touching or delivering food has been properly trained.
- Drive safely: As restaurants are adding delivery services, it is crucial to have their drivers follow safe driving requirements. Restaurant owners should review Motor Vehicle Records (MVRs) for all of their drivers, especially in the time of having other staff members cover for drivers during peak times. MVRs are a tool to help ensure that businesses put only qualified safe drivers in their vehicles.
Everyday Restaurant Safety Tips Standard safety tips
should always be followed to protect your restaurant employees even during the change from in-house to take out or delivery. Zender states, “Investing in a workplace safety program can bring long-term savings in workers’ compensation and other medical costs for restaurant owners. It is crucial that everyone on the restaurant staff understands the safety policies and procedures and that they treat the training as vital information.”
Here are some additional tips for everyday restaurant safety:
- Slips and falls: Slips and falls account for a substantial amount of workplace accidents and injuries. Ensure all spills are cleaned up quickly and correctly to prevent an injury. Also, ensure slip-resistant mats are in place in wet area and floors, doorways and stairwells are clutter-free.
- Cuts and Strains: Cut and strain-related injuries are a risk for any restaurant employee. Make cut gloves available for staff that uses knives or slicing equipment to prepare food. The use of cut-resistant gloves should be mandatory and enforced. Employees must be trained in best knife practices. To avoid strains, employers should emphasize that two people should carry objects over 50 pounds.
- Burns: Hot surfaces, deep fryers and hot grease can lead to severe burns. Employers should provide access to proper hot food handling protection and have first-aid materials, including a burn kit on hand and properly stocked at all times.
Delivery and Take Out Tips for Consumers
How to stay safe when receiving a food delivery or picking up an order
Consumers can protect themselves when they are picking up take out food or having food delivered by doing the following:
- Maintain a distance: The CDC recommends a 6-foot separation to avoid respiratory droplets that may carry the virus. When picking up an order from a restaurant, avoid peak busy hours, so there are fewer people potentially coming in contact within the restaurant.
- Consider contactless delivery: For restaurants that offer delivery services, consider a contactless delivery program. The couriers drop off the food order at the customer’s door or a designated location without personal interaction with the consumer. This is recommended to reduce the risk of person-to-person transmissions for both the delivery person and you.
- Discard delivery packaging: After receiving your food from the courier, immediately transfer it to your own plate/bowl and discard the packaging materials that came with the delivery. Also, disinfect any surfaces that were exposed to the delivery packing, including your hands. Research has found that the virus can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours, depending on the surface material.
Protect Your Restaurant with Loss Control Best Practices
AmTrust’s Loss Control team
can identify specific hazards and offer solutions that fit your restaurant. We are dedicated to providing the right recommendations and resources
to create the most effective loss prevention and workplace safety program
for your specific needs. Please contact us
to learn more. This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.