Business owners and chefs need to shift their business models to takeout, delivery, and catering in response to shut down orders amid Coronavirus spread.

Below are steps that food service providers should consider to handle Coronavirus-related issues.

Planning

  • Open communication with staff and community
    • Provide detailed information to employees about Covid-19, including the symptoms, action items, what steps the restaurant is taking to ensure the safety of workers’ and patrons, and provide updates.
    • Post signage, send email notifications, and social media posts about cleaning and sanitation procedures. Explain if your restaurant is providing paid sick leave and other benefits.
  • Develop a response plan
    • Reduced staff availability. An increased number of your employees will likely be discharged from duty.  Cross-training for various positions could ease the burden of reduced staff availability.
    • Reduction in demand. As a result of social distancing measures and mandatory in-dining closures, restaurants may experience a downturn in consumer demand.  It is imperative for restaurants to offer alternative options such as delivery , catering, and curbside pickup.  Review your contracts to determine how to handle cancellations for large parties or changing set delivery orders.
    • Publicity. Be prepared for potential press coverage if there is a Coronavirus exposure and prepare a draft public response for the media.

Cleaning and Sanitation

Comply with federal, state and local food safety laws by implementing new sanitation guidelines and requirements.

  • Deep Cleans
    • Enhance cleaning and focus on disinfecting high-touch public areas, such as tables, chairs, door handles, counter tops, and credit card machines. The EPA has a list of approved disinfectants for SARS-CoV-2.
    • Staff should increase hand-washing (such as every 30 or 60 minutes) and should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds using plenty of soap.
    • Provide hand sanitizer or personal disinfecting wipes for all patrons of the facility, demonstrating publicly your commitment to sanitation.
  • Limit hotspots for potential contamination
    • Remove self-serve condiment and utensil stations. These items may be requested directly to the staff.
    • Eliminate reusable cup options—even if the patrons bring in their own cup.

Sick Leave and Reporting Illness

Although the wage and hour laws are currently undergoing major changes, employers should review their current policies and agreements to determine how to handle circumstances involving sick employees.

  • Review relevant policies
    • Restaurant employers should review their sick leave policies, Family Medical Leave Act policies, and other relevant policies to determine what kind of leave must be provided to employees.
    • Many restaurants have amended their sick leave benefits, by providing 14 days of paid sick leave for employees who are quarantined.
  • Pay attention to proposed new laws
    • The federal government and states are considering introducing new sick leave laws and other emergency measures to provide sick leave to workers, including restaurant and service employees. Restaurants should be aware of such laws and be prepared to comply accordingly.
    • On March 14, 2020, the U. S. House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“HR 6201”). HR 6201 has many provisions related to addressing the COVID-19 crisis, including (a) paid family and medical leave (PFML), (b) paid sick time (PST), (c) tax credits for PFML and PST, (d) medical plan components, (e) unemployment insurance, and (f) several immediate public health related matters. Yesterday (i.e., March 16), the House updated HR 6201, through H. Res. 904, 166 CR 1698, with a series of what has been deemed “technical corrections,” but sweep more broadly. It is still possible that HR 6201 could undergo further changes once it is taken up in Senate. There is also now a possibility that an economic relief package will be added to this legislation in the Senate.  If changes are made, the Bill will then have to be returned to the House, which is now in recess, for a re-vote or sent into conference. The situation is still fluid and therefore the requirements described here could very well change.
  • Communicate expectations for employees to report potential exposure and/or diagnosis
    • Employers should also implement requirements for reporting any possible exposure to or diagnosis of Coronavirus infection. This includes notifying other employees and/or patrons who may have been exposed.
  • Clarify expectations to managers for addressing employee and/or patrons displaying symptoms
    • Enforce a policy whereby managers address concerns with employees who appear sick and instructions on sending employees home. Implement a policy with respect to requirements for returning to work.
    • Train managers to handle sick patrons or patrons displaying symptoms associated with Coronavirus. For example, managers should be advised to provide hand sanitizer and tissues, asking the patron to leave in extreme circumstances, properly disinfect the area, and alert medical authorities.

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