How to Safely Reopen Your Restaurant During COVID

Believe it or not, there’s a big difference between clean and sanitary. And it’s not just how we clean but what we’d clean with. Your guests’ perception based on the chemicals you’re using, how often you’re cleaning, how visible your cleaning is, etc., becomes very important when getting your restaurant safely reopened during COVID. Watch today’s video to learn more.

I was recently interviewed by USA Today about how to safely re-open restaurants after COVID and I want to share with you what I shared with them. So below, please read an article that our team wrote that is the summation of the USA Today article. 

Spoiler alert! Based on the introduction that I did for this video, there is a very big difference between clean and sanitary. One of the more interesting things that I found in this article is not just how we clean but what we’d clean with. Your guests’ perception based on the chemicals you’re using, how often you’re cleaning, how visible your cleaning is, etc., becomes very important based on the research we did to get your restaurant opened properly after COVID. I hope you enjoy the article and remember systems equals freedom, freedom equals value and value equal scale. I love every single one of you crazy restaurant people and I hope you have an absolutely amazing day!

The article text is below.


As restaurants continue to wade their way through the muddy pandemic waters, there has been a lot of concern and confusion over what is the best way to reopen and keep both employees and customers safe. 

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Jeff Anderson, food safety and sanitation consultant for P&G Professional. Dr. Anderson is responsible for creating science-based strategies to help their customers mitigate public health risk factors so they can safely reopen (and stay open). 

“Our research indicates that two-thirds of restaurant guests expect to see employees properly wearing face masks,” mentioned Dr. Anderson. “They also want to see employees washing hands often, continually cleaning, and practicing social distancing. Having hand sanitization stations throughout the restaurant also shows guests that the restaurant is going the extra mile for their safety.”

One thing became abundantly clear as we continued our discussion: Restaurant owners need to understand that safety protocols (both for guests and employees) are going to be an ongoing effort as we are going to be working through this pandemic for quite a while.

What, When, How of Keeping Your Restaurant Clean and Sanitized

Restaurant owners should purchase products that are EPA-approved against COVID. They should also follow the instructions on the label to ensure they are using the product(s) correctly and getting the full cleaning and sanitization benefit.

High-touch areas such as doorknobs, counters, tables, and menus should be cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected every hour, even every half hour if possible. It is important to be obvious about your cleaning; customers need to see that. In fact, according to P&G Professional’s research, 70% of guests want to see more thorough and constant cleaning. 

Dr. Anderson pointed to quick-service restaurant chain Dunkin’ as an example of a restaurant going the extra mile in their commitment to the safety of their guests and employees. The company recently joined the Proctor & Gamble CleanPLUS Experience Program, which ensures customers that they are 100%, top to bottom cleaning their restaurants with P&G Professional products that meet EPA standards to fight Coronavirus. 

Dunkin’ is also placing co-branded stickers on the front door, drive-thru window, and in the restrooms of all restaurants to make clear that each restaurant is being deep-cleaned and disinfected frequently. It not only serves as a reminder to their customers that Dunkin’ cares but also reminds their employees to get it done! 

Following Dunkin’s lead, a very simple gesture that goes a long way in rebuilding trust with your customers is to display signs that say ‘This area has been disinfected’. This is a quick, simple, and very affordable way to show your restaurant cares about the safety of both your customers and your employees.

Is it a problem having employees touch food?

Even well before the COVID-19 outbreak, local health ordinances prevented employees from directly touching food that someone will consume, so that should not be a concern. The larger concern most folks have is breathing on food. They understand that COVID-19 is spread through droplets that are expelled when breathing.

While I am not a doctor or a scientist, it has been widely agreed that breathing out might expel COVID-19. But simply landing on food will NOT transport the virus to anybody consuming that food. It has to enter the respiratory system directly.

This is why your employees and guests, when applicable, should be wearing masks. Masks and constant washing of hands and sanitization of surfaces are still the best-known defense we have to contracting or spreading Coronavirus.

Please note: Your restaurant should be following the updates and information provided by their local health department or the CDC in case anything changes. 

The most common COVID safety mistake

Hands down: Not wearing masks correctly!

Here are three simple steps that restaurants can follow to fix this problem:
1. Managers should be taught why masks are extremely important and use the proper mask-wearing technique.
2. Managers should then train their staff on why and how.
3. Managers should model this behavior and reinforce its importance with staff.

Where do we go next with all of this?

This is not a time to bury your head in the sand. This is going to be the “normal” for quite some time. Restaurant owners who wait for things to ‘go back to the way they were’ are going to be on the losing side because this isn’t going to happen anytime soon.  

Instead, you should take this time to invest in improvements to your restaurant(s) such as buying plexiglass, setting up curbside pickup and/or delivery, perfecting your online ordering system, creating signage, reviewing your processes and systems such as checklists and prep sheets, and cleaning/disinfecting everything.

We can’t pretend this is going away anytime soon and just sit back waiting for things to change. That is simply not going to happen. In addition to the tips above, it is suggested that your restaurant has a month of supplies, such as personal protective equipment, soap, disinfectant, paper goods, etc. on hand so you are ready if a next wave hits and there is a run on supplies. 

Restaurants need to stay vigilant with their sanitation efforts and continue to be prepared for both good and bad scenarios.