Drive-Thru, Take-Out, and Delivery Tips to Prevent Viral Transmission
During these unprecedented times, most businesses deemed “non-essential” have closed to the public. Thankfully, you can still patronize your favorites restaurants while minding social distancing guidelines via take-out, curbside pick-up, drive-thru, and delivery services. While food safety risks remain a concern, consumers and restaurant owners can significantly reduce these risks by informing themselves and being proactive. Here are a few tips to help consumers and restaurant operators prevent viral transmission.
Food Establishment Precautions:
- Preventing the entry of sick food handlers and guests should be the number one priority for operators choosing to remain open. Many businesses have managed this by limiting or eliminating the dining area altogether.
- Consider a daily written health attestation for staff and guests, asking anyone exhibiting symptoms and those who have been exposed to refrain from entering the premises.
- Employees can be screened visually or with a temperature check via digital thermometer before entering the premises.
- Employees with verified temperatures above 100° F, those experiencing flu-like symptoms, and those who have been in close proximity to individuals with flu-like symptoms or a confirmed diagnosis, should be asked to remain away from the workplace for at least 7 days and monitor symptoms through self-quarantine at home.
- Discourage hand-shaking, high-fives, hugging and other intimate forms of contact amongst staff.
Although viruses won’t grow or replicate in food, a sick food handler may still contaminate utensils, equipment, food products and packaging, potentially passing on the virus to the consumer.
Home Delivery Precautions:
- Viruses can survive on most surfaces associated with take-out packaging and inside transportation vehicles for up to three days. An infected delivery driver could contaminate outer bags and exposed packaging so throw these items away ASAP.
- Wash your hands after handling packaging for 20 seconds with soap and water before handling any food.
- Eliminate cash transactions when possible.
Drive-Thru, Curbside & Pick-Up Precautions:
- Provide guests alcohol-based sanitizer or convenient hand-washing stations (separate from the restroom) when entering dining areas to pick up orders.
- Mark areas on the floor with colored tape or other means to act as a guideline to comply with the six-foot social distancing. Encourage employees and managers to enforce distance guidelines and communicate this to guests via signs and verbal direction.
- Fomites are inanimate objects that can act as vehicles for cross-contamination. Remove all table tents, napkins, lids, plasticware, straws and similar items from common access areas such as in salsa bars and drink stations.
- Increase cleaning and sanitization of door handles, counters, pick-up windows, telephones, POS systems, pens, faucet handles, switches, chairs, tables, railings and other high contact fomites. Create a schedule that allows for rotating staff to sanitize the facility and ensure all employees are aware of the frequency, proper cleaning solutions, and proper procedures.
- Provide curbside pickup whenever possible
Solidifying Food Safety
Savvy operators should incorporate Coronavirus exposure by employees or guests into their existing Crisis Management Plans, and even have these plans reviewed by a lawyer to make sure they are in-line with all HIPAA and client interests.
As a food establishment operator, take this opportunity to refocus your operation from food safety, quality, and service perspectives. Make sure you have the right plans in place, enforce them and be prepared to flex and respond to the situation as it develops.
Third-party inspections from firms such as Avert Food Safety Advisors proactively identify and correct food safety and employee hygiene issues, reducing risk for both operators and the public. These services are especially valuable and in high demand in the current environment.
Matthew McClure provides sound strategies that instill cost-effective methods for building robust food safety, operational and quality assurance programs. Along with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Microbiology from The University of Akron and an MBA in Finance from Louisiana State University, Matthew brings over 20 years of experience in the food safety industry to AVERT Food Safety Advisors. His knowledge spans many areas including FDA food processing facilities, USDA meat and poultry plants, dietary supplement manufacturers, retail, cannabis manufacturing, and food service operations.
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