The ability to enjoy a hot sandwich melt with a cold pint seems as far away as Crystal Pepsi. Restaurants need to reopen not only because they are a significant source of income for many folks, but also the need to dissect the intricacies and pure dominance of Alabama Football with other fans is negatively impacting communication skills with my roommate. My wife hates it when I refer to her like that. We’ve done our best to compile an easy to follow restaurant reopening list for foodservice establishments so when the time comes we can all do what we do best, which is to discuss the meaning of life over fine food and drink.

5 Steps For Reopening Your Restaurant

5 steps to reopening your restaurant

1. North Carolina Restaurant Promise

Strongly consider taking the North Carolina Restaurant Promise. This is a set of voluntary commitments made to their employees and customers. Having your foodservice establishment as a designated facility that has adopted the North Carolina Restaurant Promise shows your employees, your customers, and the health department that you are taking a leadership role in protecting the community by adhering to the best reopening guidelines available. To find how to participate, or begin the short online courses, visit For flyers to post in your operation, or to hand out to customers, click here to select and print.

2. Update Training & Certifications

Update any food safety training and/or certifications. There will be a grace period to get this completed if the food safety manager certifications have lapsed during the Coronavirus period. Also, free online ServSafe Food Handler courses are available through the National Restaurant Association. It is a good idea to have your staff as well trained as possible. Although the food handler training is not required, this will show your health department, and your customers, you are committed to the highest food safety standards.

3. Staff & Customer Safety

Employees will need to be screened at the start of their shift, and if possible with a taken temperature. Restaurants have been using employee health policies for several years to avoid the spread of foodborne illness, however, a new daily COVID-19 checklist should be implemented. It shouldn’t take an employee more than 10 minutes each day to complete. Health departments very well may inquire to see these after restaurants are allowed to open, and even if they do not ask to see them, having them will certainly help put you into favor by showing your commitment to helping stop the spread. guidance from the National Restaurant Association Law Center can be found HERE.

4. Health Screening

In addition to having the daily COVID-19 health screening, develop an operating plan to handle staff who may show symptoms, have contracted the virus personally or may have been exposed to the virus through an immediate household member or otherwise. As a rule of thumb, the staff person should not be allowed in the facility for a specified duration of time. Encourage sick employees to stay home until free from fever without medication for 72 hours, and at least 7 days have passed since symptoms first began. Here is an example of an employee health screening.

5. Have A Plan

Depending on the restaurant and the type of service provided, some things to consider right away so you are prepared and ready to open as soon as it is available:

  • Staff (while working): Will you need or require face coverings or other PPE items? Will you need to institute social distancing measures with staff members who may work in close proximity?
  • Hand sanitizers: These should NOT be used by staff members, but available to customers and at least 60% alcohol.
  • Handwashing: Needless to say, signs are probably all over your kitchen and bathrooms currently, but are there any other places in which signage needs to be placed? Reinforce proper handwashing procedures for staff and guests.
  • Menus: These need to be presented to customers to minimize repeat handling between guests. If laminated, is there a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for wiping and sanitizing? Have you thought about temporarily switching to paper menus for a one-time use?
  • Condiments: Same thought process as the menus in limiting repeat use between individuals. Is there an SOP for wiping down between guests? Possibly switch to single-use temporarily?
  • Tables: Required to be 6 feet apart in all dining areas which includes outside dine-in and any outside seating such as patios. No more than 10 guests may be seated in a party or around a single seating option. Communicate this to your customers through signage posted conspicuously upon entering the establishment. Consider physical barriers for instances when social distancing requirements are difficult to achieve.
  • Dining utensils: Consider temporarily switching to single-use plates, eating utensils, napkins, or any other item for the duration of the limited abatement.
  • Cleaning & Sanitizing: Create a schedule for maintaining items that are touched frequently by multiple individuals such as, but not limited to, doorknobs, hand-rails, bathroom fixtures, customer payment items, etc. Determine when and who will be responsible, as well as maintaining a log to document each occurrence.
  • Maximum capacity: Each business should post and enforce a maximum number of individuals to be allowed in the facility. Use square footage to determine this capacity and make sure this applies to any outside dining areas. Although the exact number in NC is yet to be determined, Georgia, for example, is using no more than 10 guests per 500 square feet of dining space.

For a while, we may not be able to operate in the same manner as before this happened, but the beginning of a 1000 mile journey always begins with the first step. Do you have questions about proper reopening, or need links to complete the NC Restaurant Promise training? Contact us here anytime.