5 Actions Restaurant Employers Should Take To Fight CORONAVIRUS

March 10, 2020


The food service industry needs to follow strict health guidelines to stay in business. Restaurants have to carry to safety protocols and best practices to meet these guidelines. Moreover, while coronavirus is spreading, restaurants need to take extra precautions and restaurant employers should contact local health departments for the latest advisories/information about coronavirus in their region.

As an employer, you need to prepare for the implementation of some strategies to protect your workforce from COVID-19 while ensuring continuity of operations.

However, it is still unknown whether the coronavirus will affect the foodservice industry nor how it will, here are some actions restaurant employers should take to fight CORONAVIRUS.

Stay on top of the latest information

Identify the reliable sources of public health guidance on the virus, and stay informed with the officially recommended actions. These sources include The Centers for Disease Control and PreventionThe World Health OrganizationThe European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, and country-specific public health guidance such as official accounts of the ministry of health- state of Kuwait on Instagram and Twitter.

This official guidance should be a basis for regulatory decisions to mitigate health and legal risks. It is an important legal guarantee to be able to demonstrate compliance with restaurant policy with official recommendations if the restaurant’s efforts to combat infection are challenged.


Focus on hygiene and communicate safety practices to employees

For legal and practical causes, restaurants must be able to demonstrate that they have provided employees with accurate information about ways to prevent infection along with giving them tools to act on this information. Consequently, restaurants should increase awareness about COVID-19 through communication with staff by providing staff with specific public health guidelines about transmission and symptoms, prior to any workplace infection. Restaurants may also direct staff to the official sources of information on which the restaurants depend.

Measures to reduce the risk of workplace transmission:

  • Give employees easy access to handwashing facilities and/or hand sanitizers including soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs.
  • Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Staff must inform management if they have been exposed to the virus.
  • Staff must inform management if they show symptoms of infection.
  • Staff must inform management if they have particular vulnerabilities such as a weakened immune system that may require enhanced protection from infection.
  • Staff with symptoms of infection should be separated from others and sent home.
  • Customers who have been exposed or who have symptoms should be excluded from the restaurant.
  • Close common areas where people frequently contact with each other and share objects.
  • Increase the distance between tables and kitchen workstations as well as employees and customers (ideally 2 meters). You may use a cubicle or Plexiglas windows.
  • Clean and disinfect public commonly used surfaces at least twice daily, with particular attention to high-touch surfaces, such as:
  • Bars
  • Counters
  • Phones
  • Doorknobs
  • Kitchens
  • Computers and tablets
  • Cash registers
  • Elevator buttons
  • Tables and menus
  • Provide disposable wipes so that employees can wipe down commonly used surfaces before each use.


Strict policies about being back to work

Employers can restrict employees from work if there is a direct threat to the health or safety of others. By applying official guidelines or having a medical consultant, the employer gets to decide if it is possible for an employee, who was ill or who has been exposed to the virus, to return to work. There should be written explicit policies stating when an employer can allow an employee with potentially transmissible conditions to returning to work, not to mention the importance of documenting all relevant communications. According to CDC and WHO, employees with symptoms of infection should not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants, ibuprofen, or aspirin).


Prepare for sick-leaves and absenteeism

Analyze your legal obligations to provide your employees with leave in the event of sickness or disability and evaluate whether you need to adjust your policies in the current circumstances.

Based on this analysis, consider under which circumstances you may extend or expand benefits and protections. Perhaps you may adjust benefits plans for employees who exceed their sick-leaves in order to support sick employees who must stay home.

Moreover, be ready for increases in absenteeism because of illness among employees and their families or possibly school closures. Therefore, you need to cross-train your employees to function in key positions when needed or you may hire seasonal employees.


Make a Response Plan for a possible disease outbreak

You should plan to be able to respond in a flexible way and be ready to refine your business response plans as needed. Come up with a flexible plan that covers every aspect of your business including a temporary succession plan for key decision-makers and the authority hierarchy. In addition, you have to test your plan to correct any issues or problems with your plan ahead of time through focused discussions or exercises.

Then, you have to communicate your plan to your employees to reduce panic and uncertainty and involve them in developing and reviewing your plan. Inform and reassure employees of their options for human resources policies, workplace and leave flexibilities, and pay and benefits.