Thoughts on Getting Ready to Re-Open

As we are very near to re-opening, there is a lot of information, and I tried to pull together what restaurants need to do to be ready. This information and observations are from the various publications and webinars that have I have attended.

There are 3 sets of rules that need to be followed. Only some areas are specific, and one set is more detailed than the other.

1. The HI DoH. They have guidelines that restaurants should follow. In their inspections, they will observe your precautions that follow their guidelines, and note on their report. On future visits, they may cite out of compliance items as a violation.  They are even looking into a separate placard that grades COVID response.

2. C & C of Honolulu. They have Emergency Orders These are usually more specific, and as they are orders, they are required to be followed. I have not discovered if there are C & C inspectors that will be going around, but I am told that if guests observe any violations, they are to call the Police.

3. Your staff and your customers!! Just as tourists need to feel safe before they return, this group may have serious concerns that they may be infected. The restaurants leadership team need to take their concerns very seriously, and go above and beyond the official requirements. The ‘old’ normal kept cleaning and sanitizing as an important factor, but understood as a given. Post-COVID, staff and guests will want, no, DEMAND, that your restaurant take extra steps to keep them safe.

One of the key pieces to re-opening is having a written plan. The C & C requires this, and it outlines guest interaction with staff & others, cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting of surfaces, preshift screening and other practices the restaurant needs to follow and make sure their staff follow. I read that one place will make that plan available to guests as well. Good way to make guests feel safe!

The Dining rooms will look different as well. We are all aware of the 6 foot rule. Make sure you have the appropriate signs and distance markers. Have people sit at tables to make sure there is 6ft between guests, not just the tables. One of your signs should be that masks must be worn by guests except when they are eating or drinking. Tabletop condiments are gone, sanitizer available at the entrance and other areas are in. Partitions in restrooms, adjacent booths are the new design fashion.

For staff, those that contact your guests must have masks on at all times. BoH staff are urged, but not required to use masks. I have observed that customers have called the DoH to report that BoH workers do not have on masks. Even though the restaurant is following the rules, the guests perception needs to be taken into account. I would recommend that BoH workers wear masks. Don’t forget – hands need to be washed after handling masks and the face.

Part of your plan should include a checklist of cleaning/disinfecting areas that need to be done after guests. The hi-touch areas of your restaurant need to be wiped down. Door handles, pos terminals, credit card terminals… walk into your restaurant as a guest! Make sure that you staff knows how to use any new chemicals, that you have the proper SDS and properly labeled dispensers.  Restrooms need to be cleaned frequently (keep a log) If you only use air driers, I recommend to add a paper dispenser to the restroom and a sanitizer station outside the restrooms.

Listen to your staff and guests. Both may observe something that is not being done, or may have a good suggestion. Listen, and thank you guests for their suggestions, and use them. Your staff should be able explain and answer questions on what steps are being done, and look for the manager if they don’t know the answer.

We live on islands of Aloha, but some people may be having quarantine burn out, and may not want to follow the rules that you have on signs and need to follow. One of the signs should be that no people with COVID symptoms should enter. The manager should gently offer that the guest should get his meal to go. Do not get into a fight or make a guest feel bad.

Bottom line on items that are not included or have detailed requirements on how to re-open – just as you will never get in trouble because your cooks washed hands too much, taking any and all reasonable precautions to protect your staff and guests would not be too much either. Your plans should evolve as best fits your operation.

Two other details – check your DoH Food Establishment Permit to make sure it has not expired. If so, renew it ASAP. Also, check your PICs for having non-expired Food Safety Certificates. I am starting to give ServSafe classes again. Contact me for classes.

I have included a State to City comparison, the State and City proclamations, a sample staff health questionnaire, and links to some news reports. Information seems to be always getting updated and with additional information. Please contact me with any questions or suggestions. Good Luck to all!!