June 02, 2020

As the food service industry prepares to reopen, there are critical steps to be taken to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. This interim guidance is laid out in a series of three steps, representing a gradual scale up of activities towards pre-COVID-19 operating practices.

Scaling Up Operations

Step 1: Bars remain closed and restaurants are limited to drive-through, curbside take out, or delivery

Step 2: Bars may open with limited capacity; restaurants may open dining rooms with limited seating capacity

Step 3: Bars may open with increased standing room occupancy that allows for social distancing; restaurants may operate while maintaining social distancing

In all steps:

    • Communicate with local and state authorities to determine current mitigation levels
    • Consider assigning workers at high risk for severe illness duties that minimize human contact
    • Provide employees from higher transmission areas with telework and other options to eliminate travel

Taking Precautions

In steps 1-3, continue to promote healthy hygiene practices, and intensify cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily and shared objects between uses with products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2
  • Enforce hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and the use of a cloth face covering by employees when near other employees and customers
  • Post signs on how to stop the spread of COVID-19, properly wash hands, promote protective measures, and wear a face covering
  • Place disinfectant wipes in bathrooms
  • Wash, rinse, and sanitize food contact and preparation surfaces after use
  • Use disposable food service items, disposable or digital menus, single serving condiments, and no-touch trash cans and doors
  • Use touchless payment options when possible, and ask customers and employees not to exchange cash or credit cards by hand
  • Use gloves when handling garbage and wash hands after removing gloves or after directly handling used food service items
  • Avoid using containers or utensils brought in by customers
  • Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly open windows and doors, if it does not pose a safety risk
  • Ensure all water systems and features are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases

Promoting social distancing

Step 1

  • Limit service to drive-through, delivery, or curb-side pick-up
  • Provide physical guides to ensure social distancing
  • Install physical barriers at cash registers or other food pickup areas
  • Restrict the number of employees in shared spaces
  • Rotate or stagger shifts to limit the number of employees sharing the workplace

Step 2 & 3

  • Provide drive-through, delivery, or curb-side pick-up options
  • Reduce occupancy, prioritize outdoor seating, and limit party sizes
  • Provide physical guides and barriers to ensure social distancing
  • Ask customers to wait in their cars while waiting to be seated, and use cell phones instead of “buzzers ”
  • Allow dine-in customers to order ahead of time
  • Avoid offering self-serve food or drinks
  • Limit the number of employees in shared spaces to maintain social distancing 

Monitoring and Preparing

  • Employees showing symptoms of COVID-19 should be sent home immediately
  • Inform those who have had close contact to a person diagnosed with COVID-19 to stay home and self-monitor for symptoms
  • Establish procedures for safely transporting anyone sick to their home or to a healthcare facility
  • Notify local health officials, staff, and customers immediately of any possible case of COVID-19, while maintaining confidentiality consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other privacy laws
  • Close off areas used by a sick person and do not use them until after cleaning and disinfection, waiting 24 hours (if possible) before cleaning and disinfecting
  • Advise sick staff members not to return until they have met CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation
  • Implement flexible sick leave and telework, if possible
  • Monitor absenteeism of employees and create a roster of trained back-up staff
  • Designate a staff person to respond to COVID-19 concerns
  • Create and test communication systems for employees for self-reporting and notification of exposures and closures
  • Support coping and resilience among employees


  • Check state and local health department notices about transmission in the area daily and adjust operations accordingly
  • Consider closing for a few days if there is a case of COVID-19 in the establishment and for longer if cases increase in the local area

For more detailed guidance, please refer to the CDC Guidance for Restaurants and Bars.

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