This winter, we could be in for yet another season in which the spread of viruses makes people hesitant to eat out. Now is a good time to ensure your indoor dining areas feel as safe as possible. While it’s more common for COVID-19 to spread through close contact with an infected person, airborne transmission can occur in spaces with poor ventilation. The CDC advises you have your ventilation systems checked to make sure they are operating efficiently, and also increase the circulation of outdoor air by opening windows and doors and prioritizing outdoor seating. Also consider running your HVAC system at maximum outdoor airflow for two hours before and after it is occupied, checking filters for proper installation and function, and possibly improving the engineering controls of the system to enhance ventilation efficiency.
A moist, warm environment like your kitchen – particularly in the summer – can lead to the buildup of moisture and grease around your facility, which can, in turn, create mold contamination risks and increase the likelihood of workplace accidents. Hospitality and food safety specialist Dhruv Kishore Bole advises operators to ensure proper ventilation, schedule deep cleaning tasks at regular intervals and to have the hood and ducts cleaned by an outside vendor at least once every three of four months to prevent the accumulation of grease and minimize fire hazards.
It didn’t take a pandemic for restaurants to focus on safety – the industry is among the most regulated around. But now, any extra tool or technology designed to protect safety (particularly in ways that were not needed before) is likely to become the norm. Ventilation is now a heightened concern, and operators are increasingly monitoring and sharing information about their air quality in an effort to attract guests. Safety is still the new hospitality. One online tool to consider is Safe Air Spaces, which helps operators estimate the risk of the air in their facilities based on factors such as floor area, occupant number, ceiling height, outdoor air supply and other factors. It may help you pinpoint your trouble spots before you invest in larger systems to protect your restaurant.
Throughout the pandemic, a major barrier to the reopening of restaurants has been the air quality of indoor spaces – and how operators can ensure their dining rooms are safe. As restaurant operators reopen their indoor dining rooms, many are investing in systems and products that promote air filtration and ventilation as the pandemic winds down – and for protection down the line. The investment can be substantial but also a major selling point for guests concerned about safety. If you’re considering anything ranging from small tabletop air purifiers to HVAC system updates, consult with someone who can assess how air moves around your facility – including the locations and spacing of vents and air filters, as some purifiers inadvertently increase the spread of aerosols if spaced incorrectly. Also consider the noise of any new units you install – they shouldn’t require guests to speak more loudly to be heard, and again, spread more aerosols. Finally, have a means of measuring air quality in your restaurant and understand how the number and locations of guests, and your efforts to change ventilation and filtration, can impact your air