Seven ways for catering businesses to become Covid-compliant

The economic impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry is enormous, with thousands of operations shut down since 23 March and The Bank of England suggesting the UK would see its worst slump since 1706.

With social and catering activity at an all-time low in the lockdown Derek Gardner, Environmental Health Consultant and a Director at Navitas, explores how businesses can prepare for safe reopening, in order for them to reassure and regain customers upon lockdown lifting.

  1. Get a Covid-19 specific safety certification

When restrictions eventually relax, Derek warns that people could be fearful of returning to their old habits, so the industry will need to reassure returning customers with proven safety procedures.

Behaviours will certainly change and businesses will need to demonstrate high levels of coronavirus controls to ensure staff and customer safety, reassure reluctant customers and secure their futures.

Showing you are certified in Covid-specific measures and that you have undergone training and a risk assessment, you will not only ensure you comply with government guidelines but that you are putting customers’ health first.

  1. Temporarily change the way you operate and consider delivery

Takeaway kitchens have remained open but the government hasn’t yet given any detailed guidelines on the safety of their staff and it’s still challenging to put effective controls in place as most kitchens are confined areas.

Operations could be severely hindered under social distancing measures, so it’s important to look at how to use other spaces and run on reduced menus to allow for less staff in any one vicinity.

While temporary measures such as ‘one in, one out‘ systems have been put in place in fish and chip shops, for example, employers still have a ‘duty of care’ to their staff and implement effective controls both back and front of house to as early as is safe and possible.

  1. Designate a Covid Champion

All staff should undergo awareness training and we suggest appointing a designated Covid Champion responsible for hourly checks for front-of-house separation, the correct use of PPE and other controls on a checklist.

Establish a daily check-in system, asking staff to disclose the health or otherwise of member of their household when they come to work.

  1. Consider your PPE requirements

In order to reduce the risk of viral infection and in acknowledgement of occasions where full 2m social distancing may not be achievable i.e. passing in a corridor or other small area, the following PPE is recommended:

  • Disposable gloves
  • Disposable surgical facemask
  • Disposable headwear

Standard surgical facemasks are sufficient as this is the standard worn by ‘Non-ITU’ medical staff within the hospital environment.

The above items should be renewed for each separate business case and amended according to the risks associated with your operation. In addition, uniforms should be laundered in a hot wash daily, or as frequently as possible, in order to achieve a satisfactory level of ‘disinfection’. 

  1. Sanitising stations and cleanliness

Every business should enhance their sanitisation around touchpoints like light switches and handles, and regulate hand washing to a minimum of every 20 minutes.

Businesses should check their delivery procedures and the safe decanting and unwrapping of food.

  1. Social Distancing

Like supermarkets, we must adopt a system of travel and clear signage to ensure customers and staff stay 2m apart and review seating and screening arrangements between tables.

Cash exchange is almost redundant now, so businesses must facilitate easy contactless payment and review acceptance of cash tips.

  1. Conduct a Risk Assessment

Many businesses pre-empted the government lockdown, so Derek says commercial kitchens should be aware of the potential risks and conduct a thorough risk assessment of their premises before re-opening.

Quick shutdowns are risky. People leave oil in fryers and there is a big risk of pests, like rats, taking advantage of human absence to seek food.

Statutory test certifications of electric and gas may have expired, so your reputation is at risk, if you don’t consider the potential impacts, and you’ll  need to consider how you clear tables, serve food and deal with customer toilets.

While hospitality companies wait to hear from the government the measures they’ll need to take when the lockdown is eased, Navitas’ guidance will be valuable in enabling the industry to re-open its doors to the public in a timely and safe way.

By Derek Gardner, environmental health consultant and a director at food health and safety firm Navitas

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