As COVID-19 case numbers shift in different directions across the country, many families are making difficult decisions about activities that are safe versus others that are riskier to their health. When it comes to eating out, many restaurants around the country have shifted from takeout, delivery and curbside service to opening their dining rooms to customers again. But is it safe?
Richmond, VA local restaurant, Salt & Forge, has decided to leave their dining room closed for the time being. Owner David Hahn plans for doors to remain closed until there’s a vaccine widely available.
“It is safe to dine on socially distanced outdoor patios, but it is not safe to dine in,” Hahn shared.
“More and more scientific research is showing that the majority of virus spread has occurred in situations where: 1. Individuals were indoors and in close proximity to each other, 2. individuals were not wearing masks, and 3. individuals were in close contact for at least 5-10 minutes,” he added.
“The likelihood of transmission also increases in situations where individuals are conversing loudly or where there is not adequate air movement or ventilation. Every single one of these traits can be found in a dining room, and even if you socially distance tables, there is still risk of transmission to staff members who are repeatedly exposed to unknown
individuals,” Hahn concluded.
Even though the dining room isn’t open, Salt & Forge has made some significant changes in hopes of reducing the risk. Salt & Forge’s menus are printed on menu boards instead of offering handheld menus. The employee point of sale system has also been reconfigured to eliminate staff and customers from touching the same system.
They’ve also introduced new cleaning procedures including a CDC-certified food-safe sanitizer that kills COVID-19 (Coronavirus). The sanitizer is used in the kitchen and dining areas at this time. There are also separate sets of cleaning supplies for each area of the kitchen and dining area. Each employee also has their own working station that must be cleaning throughout the day and employees are required to practice social distancing. The staff also cleans and sanitizes regularly in between breaks of customers to keep common touchpoints and areas clean.
So how is Salt & Forge responding to positive Coronavirus tests from employees? As of now, they haven’t had a positive test or contact yet. But if a staff member does test positive, Salt & Forge already has a plan in place to keep other staff members healthy and safe.
“In the event of a positive test, we will immediately close the restaurant and cease all food truck activities. All staff will be tested no less than five days after their last contact/shift
worked with the individual who tested positive,” Hahn said.
“We will only re-open the restaurant once we have received enough negative tests to safely re-open the restaurant only with staff that has tested negative. Once all staff are confirmed negative, we will return to normal operations. We also have a financial plan and reserve in place to ensure that our staff receives their regular compensation levels during such a closure,” he added.
Closing Thoughts: Is it Safe to Dine In During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
If you’re considering dining at your favorite restaurant, it might be best to eat on the restaurant’s outdoor patio or nearby park. Closed areas at this time might not be the safest — even with tables far apart. Make sure you thoroughly wash your hands before eating and sanitize them after touching frequently touched areas.
You should also be aware of any restaurant restrictions that may be in place, such as maximum party sizes, mask mandates and required reservations. Remember to always do what’s best for you and your family at this time. And remember, ordering to-go is still a popular choice among families as a cautious way to still enjoy their favorite eateries.