COVID-19 has had a severe impact on the entire food service industry. Restaurants were forced to completely change operations overnight and more than half of the commercial kitchens and food service establishments were forced to close for an undetermined amount of time. It’s safe to say that the coronavirus changed the world as we know it. Its effect on restaurants is tremendous.

When US states and countries around the world began shutting down, the restaurant industry had to change their models. Food safety became the focus and the main methods of service included carry out, delivery, and drive thru. Those who had already formed great habits and tools were better equipped to handle this demand, others had to scramble. 

Food safety is incredibly important to the food service industry. Offering safe meals to consumers should have always been the center of every model, but with the hustle and bustle of our world pre 2020 that wasn’t always the case. The benefit of the additional focus on food safety during the pandemic, is when we come out of it our food service industry will have a whole new set of tools.

Some of the measures during COVID-19 restaurants are forced to take are extreme and are not necessary when we reopen. Other measures are now seamlessly implemented into the business and easy to bridge over to the new normal. We broke down what some of the most popular and effective methods of food safety were during COVID-19. We then highlighted what we can do in our next phase.

Food Safety During COVID-19

  • Face shields & masks- Team members adjusted to covering their mouth and nose (and sometimes their entire face) to avoid spreading germs. While cooking with masks on can be uncomfortable, some restaurants utilized shields.
  • Gloves- It’s normal to wear plastic and cut gloves in the kitchen and always have them on when preparing food. Now people are wearing gloves all the time in restaurants. Touching money, touching carry out containers, and even touching doors has become a hazard. Gloves have become vital and changing them frequently the new normal.
  • Plexiglass shields- Drive thru’s and some restaurants with openings to the outside have utilized plexiglass shields as additional protectants between customers and employees. Shields are showing up at host stands, between registers, and even in some restroom areas.
  • Tamper proof delivery- Some restaurants are adding stickers to seal packages. This makes it so customers know they are the first to open them. This extra step has made a lot of people feel more confident with carry out!
  • Employee temperature checks- Yes, some restaurants are even going to lengths of taking employees temperatures with touchless thermometers when they arrive to work. This ensures team members handling food and working in a group are healthy and not spreading any unwanted germs. A great many counties in the country are making this a mandatory requirement to re-open and stay open.

The Future of Food Safety Post COVID-19

  • Enhanced training- Training happened rapidly and inconsistently during the pandemic to get everyone up to speed. Post COVID-19 restaurant managers and owners can plan trainings throughout the year. They can also focus on areas that need improvement, so their team is always evolving.
  • More strategic standard operating procedures (SOP’s)- Packaging and serving are no longer a quick “here you go”, they are thought through methodically. Implement great SOP’s for your team to follow when packaging food to go, serving customers, preparing food, cleaning, etc. These habits will become the new normal if implemented properly and enforced by management
  • Reinforced personal hygiene- The importance of good personal hygiene in food service was brought to focus during the pandemic. Team members are the ones handling the food, cleaning, and serving guests and their hygiene is vital. Adding a more specific hygiene section to the employee handbook and holding your team to hygiene standards are great ways to reinforce a healthy environment.
  • Diligent cleaning methods- Side work for servers and closers has always included cleaning, but has it ever been this diligent? Keep the momentum and ensure you’re not only cleaning thoroughly at closing, but often throughout the day. Recheck your cleaning standards and work with your team to build great habits.

So, what now?

Everyone is unsure of what the new normal will look like post COVID-19. We are confident that some of these heightened safety measures are great to bridge into this next phase.  If you build strong habits and a healthy environment, your customers will feel confident dining with you.

The future is bright for the world of food safety and the industry has changed quicker than ever before. It’s important for everyone to take what we learned from this pandemic and implement the great takeaways. The end result will be a healthier and safer dining experience and this hyper-awareness of food safety and health is what changed us for the better.