Last week restaurants in Toronto were given a heads up that they should start preparing to reopen indoor dining areas with the implementation of new health and safety guidelines.
The City of Toronto's document for reopening restaurants gives a thorough rundown of what food establishments are expected to do to create an environment that limits the potential spread of the virus.
Guidelines include those restaurants are expected to follow before they reopen to the public as well as those that should be adhered to during operation.
What restaurants should do before they reopen
The city has provided a pre-opening checklist that included a number of specific recommendations to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. These include:
- Wash, rinse and sanitize all food.
- Ensure all hand washing stations are adequate and functional.
- Clean and disinfect all non-food contact services like door handles and equipment knobs.
- Ensure adequate amounts of sanitizers are available.
- Clean and disinfect all washrooms.
Additional measures restaurants should take to help prevent person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 include:
- Maintain physical distancing by keeping customers and staff at least two metres (six feet) apart.
- Frequent cleaning and disinfection of all contaminated surfaces.
- Keep logs of the name and contact info for all customers and staff with a check in time.
What restaurants should do to prepare the physical space
The design and functioning of the physical restaurant space will need to be updated to ensure the safety of everyone. Here are some of the guidelines recommended.
- Rearrange or remove seating and tables, or mark as unavailable so that all tables are a minimum of two metres apart between each edge of every table and that no more than 50 per cent of the rated capacity of the restaurants is available for use.
- Consider reservations only.
- Limit each table to a maximum of six customers.
- Remove waiting area seating, and create a process to ensure that customers stay separate and maintain physical distancing while waiting to be seated.
- Demarcate floor with markers for any areas where a line up may occur.
- Keep chairs well away from high traffic areas if possible.
- Rearrange equipment and/or processes in the kitchen and other areas used by staff so that a two metre distance is achievable at all times. If not feasible, staff must wear masks.
- If necessary, rearrange pick-up by servers to maintain distance.
- If necessary, install barriers such as Plexiglas to protect staff or customers.
- Remove buffets and self-serve locations.
- Reconfigure break rooms/areas and eating areas for staff to physically distance.
- Install directional arrows at entrances and exits if possible.
- Erect signage for physical distancing, passive screening and any policies affecting them.
What the restaurant policy should be with face masks
Restaurants are encouraged to have their staff where non-medical face coverings in all indoor spaces. It is up to the discretion of the restaurant whether to require customers to wear face masks at all times, except when eating.
What protocols restaurants should develop
Restaurants are recommended to develop a detailed list of protocols what will allow them to safely operate. Some of these include:
- Policies for how restaurant reservations can be made.
- Policies for payment such as non-cash payment only.
- New menu practices such as single-use paper, online menu that can be accessed via mobile devices, menu-boards, chalkboards, or regular menus cleaned between uses.
- Do not pre-set tables.
- Utensils should be rolled or packaged.
- Replace regular condiments with single-serve versions, or sanitise between uses, consider disposable napkins.
- Reconsider staffing protocols such as staggering shifts, breaks and lunch breaks, update absence policies, and new protocols for back filling absences.
- Post signs on handwashing, physical distancing, reporting symptoms, and make them visible to staff and customers.
- Clean and disinfecting all surfaces and equipment including key touch points and objects (e.g. food contact surfaces, hand contact areas, door handles, switches, table tops, chairs, sneeze guards, restrooms, taps, utensils and dispensers), shared equipment such as credit card machines and cash registers.
- Consider installing devices such as automatic doors and lights, or electronic taps.
- Supply dispensers for hand sanitizer (70-90 per cent alcohol concentration) to staff and customers, including at the door.
- Minimise unnecessary contact between customers and staff. Place clearly visible numbers on tables and ask customers to seat themselves. Minimise the time staff spend within two metres/six feet of customers.
What restaurants should do to train staff on new policies
Since a number of new protocols and rules will be in place, it's important to train staff how to best serve food, maintain physical distancing and avoid unnecessary handling. Some recommendations include:
- Considering serving to front of table and let customers distribute, avoid handling coffee cups when refilling, let customer fill/pack leftovers in containers.
- Install directional arrows to direct employees and minimize direct contact.
- Practice physical distancing during breaks.
- Assign staff to specific tasks and minimize contact between them.
- Ensure staff have access to gloves and masks as needed. Train staff in proper use of gloves and masks. Gloves are not essential, but, if used, must be changed frequently and hands washed between uses.
- Encourage frequent handwashing using the correct technique, and to avoid touching face.
- Keep a staff log of when and where staff worked, with contact information, in case it is required for contact tracing by public health.
What restaurants should do once they reopen
Once a restaurant has reopening it's important they maintain the safe operation of the physical space. Here are some of the guidelines:
- The owner/operator, or another person appointed for that purpose, should be present and checking to ensure adherence to protocols.
- Screen staff for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. All measures must be taken to ensure staff are well before interacting with customers and colleagues. Ensure that active screening of each employee occurs before each shift.
- Do not allow staff members who are sick to come to work. If staff are sick they should go home and stay at home. They should also be advised to complete the COVID-19 self-assessment tool and/or contact their primary health provider and get tested.
- Ensure customers are physically distancing while waiting; have them wait outdoors when necessary, but ensure that they do not impinge on the space of diners on the patio.
- Customers who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 should be refused entry. Display posters telling customers if they have symptoms they cannot enter.
- All customers must be seated; service to standing customers is prohibited.
- Make sure that tables are cleaned and sanitized at least daily and between sittings.
- Maintain cleaning and sanitation logs.
- Consider opening doors and/or windows to increase ventilation.
- Live music is prohibited. If restaurants provide recorded music, they should turn the volume down.
- To assist with tracing contacts of COVID-19, make sure you obtain a first and last name and telephone or email address from one person in each party. Keep this info on file for at least 30 days. You may also be required to post a notice about data collection.