COVID-19 safety guidance for food and hospitality businesses
As of 4 July, many restaurants, pubs and cafes are planning to re-open their premises with a range of changes in place to minimise risk to both staff and customers. But exactly what precautions should food and hospitality businesses be taking?
Government has provided guidelines and advice for business owners, covering topics including risk assessments, social distancing for employees, and steps to help reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 when serving food and drink.
While government guidance says that the risk of COVID-19 being transmitted through food or food packaging is low, employers still have an important role to play in minimising risk to both their staff and customers.
One of the first steps business owners should be taking is to put in place a COVID-19 risk assessment, helping them to mitigate and minimise the potential risks in their workplace.
Find out more about how to carry out your risk assessment here.
Communication is key
Having effective communications with employees is key to making sure that everyone understands what they should be doing – or not doing – to help keep each other safe. Government recommendations include:
- Visual messages, with use of pictures of good and bad practice, in addition to written information
- Frequent updates of communication (weekly is suggested) to prevent it becoming stale. Regular communication even if there is little new to share, is important to reinforce key messages and prevent false information from circulating
- Live communication, TV screens, and digital signs where feasible
- Translation of communication into the preferred languages of employees wherever English is not the first language
Food production areas
Before re-opening, the following steps can help to ensure safety in food production areas:
- Hand washing facilities or hand sanitiser should be available at the entry site.
- Ensure social distancing of two metres while awaiting entry.
- Consider staggering shift starting times to minimise crowding at entry points and ensure social distancing, including in social areas, canteens and rest rooms.
- Limit opportunities for contact between staff permanently based at the workplace and transient staff such as hauliers, transport staff and contractors.
- Limit unnecessary visits to the site.
- Consider designating managers or senior staff to act as visible marshals to supervise entry points.
- Ensure staff are dressed in an agreed and approved manner – any PPE, work wear, face coverings are issued and/or approved by you as not introducing a hazard to food safety.
Managing service of food and drink
For businesses that serve food and drink, it’s very likely that changes will need to be made to minimise risk when serving food and drink. Government guidance includes these recommendations:
- Maintain social distancing (two metres apart, or one metre with risk mitigation where two metres is not viable) from customers when taking orders from customers
- Minimise customers’ self-service of food, cutlery and condiments to reduce risk of transmission
- Encourage contactless payments where possible and adjust the location of card readers to follow social distancing guidelines
- Provide only disposable condiments or cleaning non-disposable condiment containers after each use.
- Reduce the number of surfaces touched by both staff and customers
- Minimise contact between front-of-house workers and customers at points of service where appropriate
- Ensure all outdoor areas, especially covered areas, have sufficient ventilation
For many businesses, events like quizzes, performances and comedy shows would usually be a key part of their offer. Government has published guidance to help maintain social distancing when providing entertainment within or outside restaurants, pubs, bars and similar venues that serve food or drink, saying that “At this time, venues should not permit live performances, including drama, comedy and music, to take place in front of a live audience”.
Another important aspect of helping to reduce transmission of COVID-19 is taking steps to ensure that people don’t need to raise their voices to each other – for example, by making sure music is not at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult.
- Determining the viability of entertainment and maximum audience numbers consistent with social distancing outside and within venues and other safety considerations.
- Preventing entertainment, such as broadcasts, that is likely to encourage audience behaviours increasing transmission risk. For example, loud background music, communal dancing, group singing or chanting.
- Reconfiguring indoor entertainment spaces to ensure customers are seated rather than standing. For example, repurposing dance floors for customer seating.
- Encouraging use of online ticketing and online or contactless payments for entertainment where possible.
- Communicating clearly to customers the arrangements for entertainment and clearly supervising with additional staff if appropriate.
For more advice on re-opening your business, visit the Government website here.