The hot months can be uncomfortable ones for restaurant staff who are standing over hot grills or managing busy serving shifts outdoors in the heat. At a time when it’s extra important to keep staff safe and content, take some steps to protect their safety on the job during the summer – it will have the added benefit of protecting your food. For example, make sure air conditioning units and fans are in good working order indoors, particularly if your staff is wearing gloves or other protective gear that can be uncomfortable to wear (and tempting to remove) in the heat. Schedule regular rotations of staff who are serving guests outdoors in hot weather and encourage everyone to take a quick water break every 20 minutes or so to stay hydrated.
We’ve all got pandemic fatigue – and it’s especially evident in restaurants, where people are gathering again with friends, mask-free, over their favorite food and drink. But restaurants are also at an important inflection point when it comes safety, having to decide how many lockdown-inspired protocols should remain – and perhaps putting off safety improvements that aren’t immediately necessary. Many of those improvements have to do with ventilation – including system inspections and upgrades, new HVAC filters, and the use of small air filtration units throughout a restaurant that can help protect indoor air quality. A recent report in The Atlantic advises operators to take this time to make sure they are as ready as they can be to manage future variants or separate virus outbreaks (and to have a clear-eyed view about spending money on more-visible but less-effective protocols that fall into the realm of pandemic theater). What valuable safety lessons from the pandemic could you try to ensure don’t get put on the back burner as concern about the pandemic recedes?
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