Vanessa Lamers, Assistant Director, Performance Management and Quality Improvement, Public Health Foundation, and Ron Bialek, President, Public Health Foundation, Public Health Foundation
Restaurants have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, experiencing economic loses, orders to close indoor dining, and COVID-19 fears from staff and patrons.
As restaurants begin to reopen, it is important for health departments to provide information, materials, guidance, and recommendations on how to reopen while keeping their staff, patrons, and community safe. Relationships and collaboration with restaurants are important foundations for crucial activities such as contact tracing, decreasing community spread, and economic development.
“As chefs, we want our restaurants to be centers of community—places our workers and guests feel welcome and secure. We need public health officials to help us keep our restaurant safe, so that everyone who dines with us feels confident in their health and safety." - Chef Jose Andres, founder, World Central Kitchen
What Health Departments Can Do
Many restaurant managers and owners are uncertain about what they can do to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to protect their employees and diners. Health departments can share materials and help restaurants navigate challenges such as:
- Source control and masking – Health departments can provide resources and expertise on controlling for COVID-19, including employee and patron symptom screening, types of masks and mask fit, and by discussing local data on restaurant outbreaks. Health departments can also provide resources to restaurants on the importance of masking for employees and patrons, including:
- Safety First: Protecting Workers and Diners as Restaurants Reopen – This comprehensive guide provides what managers and workers must know to keep their workers and diners protected from COVID-19 in the face of shifting community transmission.
- The Our COVID Pledge – Developed by leading restaurant, chef, and food-service organizations, this pledge lays out the model restaurant practices for reducing the spread of COVID-19.
- Considerations for Restaurant and Bar Openings – These considerations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include guiding principles, information on reducing spread and healthy environments, and communication resources.
- Employee vaccination – Health departments can help restaurants and restaurant staff find vaccines near them, council them on how to increase vaccine uptake, and provide plain language, high quality information on vaccination for COVID-19 and flu. Resources are available to provide to restaurants and businesses, such as:
- Safety First infographics, the Diner Code of Conduct and Our Covid Pledge – These materials developed by restaurant industry leaders can help health departments demonstrate the importance of vaccination and partner with restaurants to get all employees vaccinated.
- COVID-19 Safety Tips for Food Business Managers – This two-page infographic addresses safety measures employees can take (pages 9 and 10). Also available in Spanish. The entire Toolkit is designed to provide guidance on safety measures that can be taken to protect workers and diners. [Not yet updated to incorporate recent mask recommendations for public spaces.]
- Restaurant ventilation – Health departments can advise restaurant owners and managers on best practices for ventilation, including how to work with available options in an existing restaurant, and also to support restaurant owners and managers as they build new spaces or renovate spaces using the permitting process. Health departments can learn more about ventilation from the Safety First: Ventilation Basics one-pager, which can also be provided to restaurants.
As always, health departments are the experts on the health of their communities. Local stories (successes and failures), as well as local data on transmission are key supports for communicating with restaurant managers, staff, and patrons.
The Public Health Foundation is working with the Food and Society Program at the Aspen Institute to develop a set of short modules for health departments on how to work with their local restaurants to decrease the transmission of airborne viruses such as COVID-19 and influenza. These will be launched in early October 2021. You can be notified when the course is available by signing up for updates.
For questions, or to share resources you are using with your restaurants, email Vanessa Lamers at email@example.com.