Recently we held a socially distanced onsite Food Handler class and one of the questions posed to those in attendance was, “What is the most difficult adjustment your organization has had to make in your Covid-19 re-opening?” Many of those in attendance answered “Social distancing”. Why is social distancing so important and how can we ensure we are following the correct guidelines?
Social distancing is also known as “physical distancing” and is a fundamental part of the new dining out experience. It entails keeping a safe distance from those that are not from your immediate household or circle. The outlined regulation is 2m (6 feet) apart and it not only applies for customers but restaurant staff as well.
Close contact can facilitate the spread of COVID-19 especially if individuals are in contact for prolonged periods of time. Spread can occur via coughing, sneezing, talking, singing or even from contact surfaces. The droplets can be inhaled in the lungs causing infections. It is possible to have COVID-19 and be asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) and still spread it to another person. Individuals with a compromised immune system or pre-existing conditions are more at risk.
The guidelines outline 2m (6 feet) to ensure members of the public are safe and prevent community spread of the virus. Restaurant seating must be configured with rearranging and/or removal of seating and tables, or mark as unavailable, to meet BOTH of these conditions:
- Minimum of two metres/six feet between each edge of every table, with allowance for movement and seated patrons (where applicable).
- No more than 50% of the rated capacity available for use.
- No more than six customers should be seated at each table.
- Remove waiting area seating, develop waiting area protocol.
- Demarcate floor with markers for any areas where a line up may occur.
- Rearrange equipment and/or processes in the kitchen and other areas used by staff to facilitate a two metre/six foot distance. If not feasible, staff must wear masks.
- Rearrange pick-up by servers to maintain distance (e.g. use the bar as a serving area). If necessary, install barriers (e.g. plexiglass) to protect staff (e.g. host desk) or customers (e.g. between back-to-back booths).
- Reconfigure break rooms/areas and eating areas for staff to physically distance.
Implementing these social distancing/physical distancing protocols will help you ensure customers and staff are working and dining in a safe environment.