Opening the doors to a new reality: A look at how businesses are navigating through COVID-19

After months of lock-down, Canadians are looking forward to patio season—but this year the restaurant experience will look a lot different with COVID-19 still circulating.

Each province and territory has its own plan for reopening restaurants and food services. Restaurants Canada’s Reopening Plans Tracker provides real-time updates on government announcements related to lifting restrictions. As cases decline, business owners are looking at best practices for reopening while keeping staff and customers safe.

Where to start when re-opening:

  • According to best practices by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). Restaurant owners and foodservice operators should do “everything reasonably possible” to protect the health and safety of their workers and customers by providing information, training, sanitation and PPE.
  • Promote home delivery or curbside pickup and follow food safety precautions related to the temperature and storage of foods
  • Clearly communicating any new practices and policies that will affect employees and the customer experience through your website, social media as well as on the front door of your establishment.
  • Remove ketchup bottles, salt and pepper shakers, sugar bowls, or other condiments on tables (or self-serve stations) and replace them with single-serving packets.
  • Staff should thoroughly clean and disinfect tables and chairs between seatings. Health Canada has put together a list of approved disinfectants for use against SARS-COV-2.
  • “Unless otherwise required by local authorities, redesign floor plans to demonstrate 50 percent posted capacity or greater if floor plans can demonstrate required social distancing,” according to best practices by Restaurants Canada.

What to do for dine-in:

  • Consider a reservations-only business model to help space customers; remove seating in the waiting area and encourage parties to wait outside or in their car. For bar seating, stools should be placed six feet apart, or consider closing bar seating until the easing of physical distancing requirements.
  • Rearrange their seating to accommodate physical distancing between parties, as well as promote physical distancing in aisles, lineups, and cash registers. Keep in mind that the size of parties can’t exceed restrictions set by public health authorities.
  • If furniture can’t be removed to allow for physical distancing: mark certain tables as unavailable, consider temporary dividers if you have communal seating.

Quick-service dining:

  • To encourage physical distancing, provide clear signage for: ordering stations, pickup areas, mobile orders, provide more space between tables, limit the size of parties at each table, and ensure tables and chairs are frequently disinfected.

Self-service dining:

  • CCOHS recommends discontinuing salad bars and buffets where diners use the same utensils. Self-serve stations should be modified to limit contact with other diners; utensils, straws, and stir sticks should be individually wrapped.

Keeping employees safe:

  • Train staff on how to serve food with the least amount of contact, which will benefit both staff and customers. Where possible,
  • Use technology to reduce interactions, such as mobile ordering, menu tablets, and contactless payments.
  • Traditional menus will need to be disinfected after each use and paper menus will need to be thrown away after one use
  • Servers should bring items such as glasses, cutlery, and single-serve condiments to the table only after the party is seated and avoid touching water glasses or coffee cups during refills.
  • If staff can’t maintain a distance of two metres from other staff or customers, encourage the use of non-medical masks or face coverings.

Employees should stay home if they’re sick or exhibiting any COVID-related symptoms. Follow steps from the Public Health Agency of Canada for self-assessment


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