When it comes to the coronavirus, restaurant kitchens have an advantage that other businesses may not: workers and processes already maintain the highest levels of infection control. Now is the time when your business will succeed or fail on the strength of its proactive procedures and strong health and food safety culture.
Pivoting your kitchen slightly to accommodate the latest information on protection against the disease can yield strong results. To accomplish this, you should maintain a strict schedule of sanitization, upgrading your employee training to cover both cleaning and personal illness protocols, and conducting regular audits to ensure all kitchen procedures are being followed.
Updating Kitchen Procedures
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided COVID-19 guidance for restaurants and bars. Summarized here are just a few suggestions that will make your cleaning and public safety protocols the safest they can be.
- For typical cleaning, it is recommended to follow normal sanitizing procedures for food contact surfaces. However, frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned as often as possible, or at least daily, and as required by food safety requirements.
- Disinfect with products that meet EPA disinfection criteria and that are appropriate for the surface. Carefully read and follow directions for use and proper contact times as recommended by the manufacturer.
- For food contact surfaces, wash, rinse, and sanitize with an EPA-approved food contact surface sanitizer. If such a surface must be disinfected for a specific reason, such as a blood cleanup or deep clean in the event of likely contamination with SARS-CoV-2, wash, rinse and disinfect according to the label instructions; then rinse again and sanitize with a food-contact surface sanitizer and potentially shut your establishment down for the day.
- The EPA does consider tabletops to be a food contact surface, so after disinfection, rinse thoroughly with potable water.
- Ensure the correct storage of disinfectants to avoid food contamination and harm to employees.
Public Health and Safety
- Require employees to wash hands regularly, including every time PPE is removed.
- Take employee temperatures at the beginning of every shift.
- Require the use of face coverings by all employees as is feasible and particularly when physical distancing is challenging. Information should also be provided on the proper use and washing of these masks.
Before Anyone Gets Sick
In accordance with state and local laws, restaurant and bar operators should notify local health officials as well as your staff immediately of any case of COVID-19 among employees, while maintaining confidentiality in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, there are important steps to take before anyone gets sick, such as establishing procedures like these:
- Ensure employees understand the symptoms and spread of COVID-19.
- Develop policies for returning to work after COVID-19 illness; if it’s not in your sick policy already, add flu-like symptoms and fever for exclusion. While the CDC’s criteria to discontinue home isolation can advise your policies, best practice has been that an employee cannot return to work until they have been symptom-free for 72 hours.
- Make sure employees know what to do if they’ve had close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 (stay home, self-isolate and monitor for symptoms and follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop).
Awareness For Every Employee
These updates could mean a lot of new detail for your employees to remember and implement. However, for the health of your employees and the sake of your business, it’s critical to be proactive about reinforcing your employee training and practices around public safety. Add to your current employee training the details of new safety actions including:
- Updated cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting procedures to ensure safe application of disinfectants.
- Hand hygiene, mask use, temperature checks and cough etiquette.
- Revisions to your ill employee policies.
In this updated training, it’s recommended to designate a staff person for each shift who is responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. All members of every shift should know who this person is and how to contact them. In accordance with health information sharing regulations for COVID-19, employees should self-report to this point of contact if they have symptoms of COVID-19, a positive test for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Digital Restaurant Kitchen Cleaning Checklist To the Rescue
A major concern is how to get every employee to remember their updated training and procedures during every phase of every shift. It’s also recommended that training during the pandemic not be done in groups.
With a digital restaurant audit solution like MeazureUp, you can update policies and procedures just once and push out the latest information to every employee via their mobile phone or tablet with all records updated instantly.
Once procedures and training are updated and complete, your digital audit solution can easily generate a new checklist for employees to follow on site, with results available across your network as they click. At the same time, your digital restaurant kitchen checklist makes it easy for your auditors and management to complete updated evaluations and inspections. Some specific areas that could be audited include:
- Daily health checks for all on-site employees such as temperature checks and symptom screening
- Renewed focus on ensuring all hand sinks are accessible and with warm water, soap and paper towels readily available
- A related increase in the frequency of checking hand sinks, including those in the guest restrooms, as hand-washing frequency will increase
- Proper storage and use of EPA-approved disinfectants
2020 is absolutely not the year for your kitchen safety checks and procedures to be anything less than completely air-tight. A digital restaurant audit solution like MeazureUp is the quickest, easiest and most reliable way to ensure that every employee is aware of and is consistently using the latest procedures designed to keep them, their fellow workers, and your restaurant guests safe.
- Stay in touch with your state and local health officials for guidance and updates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The CDC provides extensive COVID-related FAQs and examples of screening methods in their General Business FAQs