Even before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we do business, standard operating procedures in the restaurant industry always included following food safety and sanitary practices, cleaning and sanitizing equipment, as well as rules on how to properly prepare, handle, store and cook food according to industry guidelines, federal laws, and best practices.
COVID-19 social-distancing rules have forced many restaurants to close their dining rooms. However, other restaurants are trying to weather the storm by staying open and increasing food delivery services. Now more than ever, restaurants need to follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) more closely and, in some cases, create and ramp up their food delivery preventive maintenance procedures.
Nation’s Restaurant News suggests the following best practices for increasing restaurant preventive maintenance and standard operating procedures (SOPs) during COVID-19:
1. Switch to digital payments.
This may be small but to minimize contact with customers, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend not touching cash and, if possible, requiring only digital payment options. COVID-19 can survive on hard surfaces like coins (and a little less so on paper money) for days in some cases. While many cities and states are mandating that cash must be accepted, consider offering incentives for your customers to go cashless.
2. Follow COVID-19 handwashing guidelines.
We’ve always known that food safety practices start with proper handwashing and personal hygiene. Everyone who handles food, food preparation, food packaging, and food delivery should properly wash their hands with antibacterial soap and water for at least 30 seconds. Consider training your delivery drivers to properly wash their hands also. Check out the CDC guidelines for handwashing.
3. Change gloves often.
Restaurant workers need to wear masks and disposable (single-use) gloves. Disposable gloves help reduce the spread of disease-causing organisms when used correctly. Without following hygienic preventive maintenance procedures, gloves can become a source of contamination.
Once the virus contacts gloves, the virus can travel with the gloves. Dispose of used gloves often to prevent cross-contamination. Between glove changes, employees need to properly wash their hands before putting on gloves.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that disposable gloves need to (1) be used for only one task such as working with ready-to-eat food or with raw animal food, (2) used for no other purpose, (3) discarded when damaged or soiled, or (4) when interruptions occur in the operation. Furthermore, all disposable gloves should be discarded and replaced after two hours, whether or not any of the above occur.
4. Practice increased safe food space procedures.
With new equipment in use–such as chafing dishes usually used for catering or large events—practice enhanced safety checks and procedures for disinfecting restaurant equipment and surfaces. Check out the CDC Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations. Also, refer to this list of products pre-approved for use against COVID-19.
5. Use enhanced safe food packaging.
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service requires that before delivery, hot food needs to be held at 135º F or more, and cold food should be held at 41º F or less as long as possible. Limit the time food is out of this temperature range to less than two hours. Package hot and cold food separately to maintain the recommended food temperature safety guidelines.
Food packaging should fit tightly to maintain hot and cold temperatures for as long as possible and to uphold food quality. Consider packaging food with adhesive seals on delivery bags, carryout containers with plastic tabs that break when food is accessed, tamper-evident labels, and adhesive bands across the tops of lids and cups. Make sure the bag and its food are secure enough to withstand possible movement and possible cross-contamination during transportation? If not, double bag or secure everything together.
6. Communicate restaurant and food-safety policies to customers.
In addition to adding tamper seals, consider labeling the package with the time and date of the order and delivery and heating or reheating instructions if applicable. Many restaurants are now posting online summaries of their revised standard operating procedures to encourage customers, who are staying home and deciding if they feel comfortable using your delivery services (or others like Uber Eats, Grubhub, and DoorDash), to feel safe ordering delivery from your restaurant.
Based on questions from food consumers, the CDC recently posted that there is “Currently there is no evidence of food, food containers, or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.” Fast Company writes that there is “Good news: With a few safety measures, you can make your food deliveries safe during the coronavirus pandemic,” and offers recommendations to consumers about how to feel good about ordering food for delivery.
Similarly, Market Watch provides a list of “contactless” food delivery services and their COVID-19 enhanced sanitary and hygienic policies. The National Restaurant Association has set up a Coronavirus Information and Resource page.
7. Update standard operating procedures to include COVID-19 increased health and sanitary guidelines.
With the changes brought on by increased concern over health and safety, create adjustable checklists for employees to follow. We recommend creating digital checklists with built-in accountability to ease the transition of new preventive maintenance procedures and to increase compliance. Create a digital checklist with the MaintainX app in as little as 5 minutes. Click here to learn How to Create a Digital Checklist.
Many of these new procedures may become everyday guidelines. Updating safety procedures and practices via MaintainX will reduce the learning curve and any changes once social distancing measures and restaurants get back to business as usual.
We hope you have found these reminders useful and that you now have some new ideas about how you might increase your restaurant’s operational and safety procedures.
Company leaders who maintain open communication, healthy work environments, and easy-to-follow procedures can make life easier for everyone during a stressful time. If you think MaintainX could help your organization enhance employee, customer, and stakeholder safety, we’re here to help. Feel free to share this handout with your company’s leadership team or create your free account today.
Click here to get started with MaintainX.