Depending on where you are, restaurant dining may be on lockdown or it may be returning to a physically distanced social affair. As we begin to cautiously venture out, many of us are wondering how to dine safely in public environments. What are the signals of safe practices to look for in restaurants, cafés, and coffee shops? And what should we do to keep ourselves and others safe?
Bon Appétit Management Company has consulted internal and external safety experts in the process of reopening our cafés and has developed comprehensive protocols that allow us to serve our guests with warmth and hospitality while keeping them safe in the time of COVID-19. The following advice reflects some of our own safety procedures and the best practices you should look for in any dining establishment.
Three Signals of Safety
When dining out, there are three primary signals that indicate a restaurant is likely to be taking safety seriously. The first signal is that employees in the restaurant are wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks and/or gloves. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests calling the restaurant to ask if staff members are wearing cloth face coverings. They also recommend checking the restaurant’s website and social media accounts in advance of your visit to see if they’ve made any statements about COVID-19 precautions. While requirements for PPE differ from state to state, cloth face coverings are currently a best practice everywhere. It may also be worth asking restaurant employees about their safety protocols. A well-informed employee is an indicator that they’ve received safety training specifically about COVID-19. In Bon Appétit cafés, you’ll know employees are up to speed because they’re wearing buttons that say “I’m Trained!”
The second safety signal is that there’s infrastructure that supports physical distancing. This can be in the form of signage, floor decals, or stanchions that help to direct traffic. Tables should be distanced at least 6 feet apart and/or have a physical barrier between them, such as a plexiglass shield. But the most important aspect of physical distancing is whether or not people appear to be following the guidelines and staying 6 feet apart.
Finally, visible cleaning and sanitizing activity is also a key safety signal. High-touch areas such as door handles and keypads on credit-card readers should be sanitized regularly. That means if you’re sitting at a table for an hour, you should see employees cleaning. Tables and chairs should be disinfected after each use. Depending on the type of restaurant you’re visiting, they may be adopting contactless payment via an app or cashless alternative. Others may disinfect pens and check covers between each use.
We’re in it Together
In addition to the safety protocols restaurants are undertaking, restaurant guests also contribute to creating a safe environment. As a guest in a restaurant, the everyday tenets of COVID-19 safety still apply: Wear a cloth face mask when you’re not actively eating, maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other diners not in your party, and wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer. Perhaps most importantly, remind yourself to be patient. Many restaurant guests and employees are adjusting to new protocols, so the rhythm of the experience is likely to be different.
Dining together is an essential social experience. Together we can ensure that it still feels social — but also safe.