How Restaurants Can Practice Social Distancing

As parts of the country begin to reopen and customers start looking to eat out again, restaurants have an important role in keeping their communities safe. OSHA, the CDC, and the FDA have all issued guidance on preparing your workplace, including safety tips specifically for restaurants and food and beverage businesses to protect their workers from exposure to COVID-19 while still providing curbside pickup and takeout service. In restaurant settings, it’s especially difficult to implement social distancing, but there are still options for preventing the transmission of illness.

Workplace Controls

Restaurants are recommended to implement workplace controls to reduce transmission among employees. OSHA has advised to allow workers to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth to help stop the spread of the virus and employers should provide gloves to avoid any bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods. Where PPE is required, employers are mandated by OSHA to provide equipment at no charge to the employee.

It’s also essential to practice social distancing in the workplace, ensuring workers can maintain 6 feet from others. Move workstations around if necessary, marking each one off with floor tape. If possible, install plexiglass partitions to protect employees from respiratory droplets in the air.  Employers will want to evaluate their workplace and their business to understand what services they still can offer and how best to comply with State and local regulations.

Stop Did You Wash Your Hands Bathroom SignKeeping Operations Safe

While still following established food safety protocols when it comes to food prep and food storage, restaurants are recommended to:

  • Increase cleanings
  • Regularly disinfect doorknobs, equipment handles, check-out counters, and other frequently touched surfaces.
  • Discontinue self-serve stations, salad bars, and buffets requiring customers to use common utensils or dispensers.

Above all else, check applicable State or local requirements and refer to local health authorities for recommended strategies.

Encourage Healthy Practices

In addition to implementing basic infection control, employers can protect workers by fostering a culture of healthy hygiene. Make sure your facility has a place to wash their hands if not multiple handwashing stations, and encourage good hand hygiene by posting signs reminding workers to lather thoroughly and wash for a full 20 seconds.

You can also use signs to effectively remind everyone to practice social distancing and good respiratory etiquette. Encourage workers to wash their hands after sneezing and consider adding extra trash receptacles and sanitization stations around the workplace. Being extra cautious with hygiene at work protects workers, but also the community as a whole.

Opening for Pick-Up & Delivery

It’s important to use signage to communicate with your customers as well. If your establishment is still offering services (e.g., takeout, curbside pick-up, delivery) make sure your customers know! Post a sign on the door or display a sign on the sidewalk with details of hours of operation and how customers can place an order. Encourage customers to order ahead of time and try to avoid direct hand-off whenever possible. If curbside pick-up isn’t available, mark 6-foot distances with floor tape in carryout lines and clearly mark designated pick-up zones to maintain healthy distances.

For restaurants with curbside pick-up, reserve parking spaces near the front door. To ensure a smooth operation, post easy-to-read signs for customers to direct them to stay in their car and call in or wait for assistance. Sending food out for delivery? Try “no-touch” deliveries so drivers can send out alerts when dropping off deliveries. Make sure foods are kept separated to avoid cross-contamination and use proper food storage to maintain safe temperatures.

Restaurant owners and operators should contact their state and local health departments for the latest information about COVID-19 in their community. By implementing workplace controls and encouraging healthy hygiene practices, it’s possible to protect both restaurant workers and customers.


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