Coronavirus: Restaurants Respond

In response to Coronavirus concerns:

Danny Meyer tweeted that The Modern would be closed for a day and every inch sanitized  after a guest tested positive for COVID-19, despite being told by the NYS Health Commissioner says no risk of transmission; 

“Team & guests come first,” the hospitality leader concluded.

Darden will offer paid sick leave to all hourly workers, according to a Bloomberg report.

And how are other restaurants and industry insiders responding to this growing health concern?

The National Restaurant Association remains on top of the issue providing updates and resources including a fact sheet and a webpage with an FAQ, industry guidance, and food safety guidelines provided by ServSafe to address increasing questions about COVID-19.

Manifesto Market Founder and CEO Martin Barry advises: “Stay calm, be responsible. Eat healthier.”

The cashless multi-vendor open-air gastronomic market has two locations in Prague, and a total of 34 independently operated restaurants, bars and retailers. 

“We hope the fears will subside and governments can help control the outbreak. That being said, we have been starting to plan responsibly for impacts in Europe, where we see food retail starting to be affected, “ he continued. “We hope our company Manifesto Market is safely positioned b/c 1) our supply chain is local, 2) our locations have a lot of fresh, open-air, and 3) we are cashless – so no currency is exchanged. Cash is dirty; and 4) we will soon launch bundled food delivery, acting as a marketplace for cloud kitchen delivery. We are taking other precautions and provide a sanitary training session for our tenants and clear communication with our tenants via our digital property management system (PMS). We are trying to be responsible and calm.”

Among the actions the brand is taking:

  • Clear, concise communication with  f&b tenants. 
  • Keeping an open line of communication with our loyal guests via channels we own, or traditional media. 
  • Monitoring the situation and governmental agency messages very closely. 
  • Our priority is to reinforce prevention to protect both our employees and our guests. 
  • We regularly distribute a list of recommendations and updated hygiene protocols, as well as providing training to our staff and health recommendations to our vendors. 
  • We are making alcohol-based hand sanitizers available for staff members and guests. 
  • We are providing extra tissues and napkins for customers to use for coughs or sneezes. 
  • We are increasing the cleaning intervals and rigor of bathrooms and all surfaces and monitoring the regularity and cleanliness with live updates and notifications on our property management system.
  • We encourage everyone to wash and sanitize their hands on a regular basis, and eat daily vitamins to boost their immune systems. 
  • Our employees and tenant staff with any cold or flu symptoms are required to stay at home and contact their doctor via phone. 
  • As of this week we use infrared thermometers to check the temperature of staff as they enter the markets. 
  • We ensure food safety. Manifesto is an open-air space with natural air circulation. Our supply chain is local, we work with smaller independent retailers and restaurants and therefore we do not expect any supply issues. 
  • The space between our tables is larger than one and half meters, so that people can feel a comfortable distance. 
  • We have a digital PMS (Property Management System) with a cloud-based reporting system. Any suspicious event would be reported immediately, online, to all the responsible people who can take action with no delay. This is also how we can inspect that all the measures are being respected. 
  • We regularly update our PMS notifications board – read by our tenants daily – with updates from the management team and government so everyone has the most up-to-date and clear instructions. Our tenants and staff can also post messages or updates to the PMS. 
  • Cash is dirty. We are cashless, which means no money (bills) circulate in the market, or exchanging hands of those handling your food. This has always been one of the most important ways we can stop transmission of germs. 
  • We are prepared so that if we need to close to the public for any period of time, we will transition to cloud kitchens, available already from most of our restaurants, and pivot to a temporary cloud kitchen marketplace where our guests can still order from Manifesto’s 30 restaurants – but do it from home. 

Restaurant management platform Lavu is preparing to help customers who may be impacted by the COVID-19 coronavirus by waiving software hosting fees for those affected. As the world braces for a pandemic, Lavu leadership recognizes the potential for restaurant closures.

 “The name Lavu is derived from “love-you” and we love our customers. Lavu is invested in helping restaurant operators during any potential slowdowns that arise due to the coronavirus,” said Lavu CEO, Saleem S. Khatri. “We are closely monitoring the impact of the coronavirus on our industry and we’re here to help our customers.”

To assist, Lavu will waive software fees for customers based on the length of time they are closed if a city shutdown or quarantine happens. “We hope this reduction in fees will alleviate some of the pangs of dealing with a prolonged slowdown in customer traffic. We understand the fluidity of the situation and will adjust our services as needed for our global customer base,” Khatri says.

The CDC is currently advising anyone with flu-like symptoms to stay home and continues to stress the importance of frequent handwashing with soap and hot water. Repeated disinfection of surfaces and frequently touched objects is also vital, and for restaurants full of tables, bar tops and other points of contact, this cannot be overstated.

Customers experiencing closure due to the coronavirus can submit their information here to request assistance.

Michael Dorf, Founder and CEO of City Winery, sent a note, saying in part: “As a business which is all about NOT social distancing, we have implemented every measure and precaution possible to create an environment for our guests that is as safe as possible.  Some examples: the nightly sanitizing of our venues and increased frequency of disinfecting the floors, all surfaces, and kitchen areas throughout the day ensuring all employees are trained in vigilant personal washing, cleaning, and wearing gloves when serving our guests scheduling personnel to sanitize restrooms continuously throughout the day having employees open doors for guests whenever possible closely monitoring the health of our staff and enforcing any and all to stay home and not come to work even with the slightest of symptoms.”

He ended with a hopeful note: “We feel a strong responsibility that the shows must go on, not just for ourselves, but to be that community gathering spot, the town hall, to provide that comfort and space.”

UPDATE:  On Monday,  March 16, Dorf wrote:

"To combat the spread of the virus, we made the difficult decision yesterday afternoon to comply with the momentum and take the important but painful step of temporarily ceasing all City Winery operations nationally until further notice.

As an organization, we have been working tirelessly over the past few weeks to find a way to be able to operate safely and responsibly so that we can support our employees, guests, and artistic community. We have tried to set an example for how to balance safe social distancing without total hibernation. But at this point, we are heartbroken to admit that we no longer believe that this is possible.

We do not take this decision lightly, and we recognize the profound impact it will have on thousands of lives. We intend to support our temporarily suspended team members as best we can by voluntarily continuing our contributions to their health insurance premiums.

Taking care of our communities is part of the City Winery DNA, and this step, though painful, is a necessary one. We will continue to communicate with you on our efforts during this crisis, and we look forward to sharing hopeful news of reopening and upcoming shows very soon.

In the meantime – if you have tickets to a show that has been cancelled or postponed, but have not yet heard from us – we apologize. Please know that we will be reaching out to you as soon as we can with more information.

Finally – if you're in a position to help – we could really use your support right now. While we can't put on shows or serve food to you, we are still making wine, produced locally, with grapes sourced from incredible vineyards – and we'd be truly grateful for the opportunity to sell some to you. Quite frankly, our ability to continue supporting our employees and sustain this shutdown depends on it."

They will be announcing new options to make it easier  to order from the wine store, including offering free home delivery on all full cases on Tuesday.

Bo Peabody – Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of restaurant reservation and rewards app Seated, Board member of Boqueria Restaurants, and Co-Owner of Mezze Restaurant Group, told MRM magazine
"Companies are and will be out in front of the CDC so there may be a period of time when many people are working from home but it is still perfectly safe to go out. In this case, restaurant visits could rise because people will be longing for social connection. If the CDC warns that being in enclosed spaces with other humans increases your chances of contracting the virus than all bets are off. Should this happen, at Boqueria, we are planning to increase our focus on delivery. At Seated, we are considering offering links to delivery apps for our restaurant partners that request it."

He offers three suggestions:

  • Communicate effectively to your staff to make sure they understand you care about their safety and their economic well-being.
  • Make plans to increase visibility on multiple delivery apps and introduce special delivery options.
  • Communicate with your landlord (if relevant) and socialize the idea moving to a revenue share format should the CDC take steps to limit people’s social interactions.

Ben Fileccia, Director of Strategy and Operations for the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association (PRLA), says restaurants should focus on keeping their employees and guests safe. 

“Any employee showing signs of flu-like symptoms should be sent home until they are symptom free. Restaurants should also provide guests with additional napkins or tissues when they cough or sneeze, make sure there are alcohol-based hand sanitizers readily available and be sure to maintain clean surfaces by frequently cleaning and sanitizing surfaces that come in guest contact.”

At The Cake Girl in Tampa, it is business as usual. Since the beginning, The Cake Girl has stayed true to their company's core values of Safety, Quality, Always Here, and Be the Best! "It all starts with Safety", said  Kirby Lavallee, Chief Success Coach at The Cake Girl. "The safety of our team members and customers is the most important thing we do on a daily basis.”

“Throughout our day we are constantly wiping down surfaces in between tasks with disinfectant cleaners. These food safe disinfectant cleaners ensure that all food surfaces are kept clean and germ free. In addition to all of our surfaces being wiped down, we take it a step further to clean all glass windows and floors with products that have built in disinfecting properties. These products are also shown to be effective against the Coronavirus (per the companies literature/studies). It is also important to talk about the dishwashing process. The process of wash, rinse, and sanitize are very important as it relates to having clean pots/pans that are used to bake with. Our auto-feeder systems put the proper amount of soap and quaternary disinfectant into the water to ensure that they are cleaned properly. Our team members use test kits to ensure that the right amount of disinfectant is in the water at all times. A quaternary based product is also used in sani-buckets that are kept at each workstation for cleaning surfaces.”  

Lavallee  added that one of the most important things that restaurant establishments must ensure is happening is proper handwashing of those involved in food prep. 
“We have several handwashing stations that are always stocked with soap, paper towels, and proper handwashing technique posters. Our team members wash their hands through the shift or anytime they change their job task, use the restroom, clean, or handle cash. After proper hand washing they use food safe gloves before touching food products. They also wash their hands and apply new gloves as they change tasks. It is also the small things that we do like wiping door handles, cleaning off the touch screens on our point of sale system, and ensuring that anything that could be touched by customers is sanitized routinely.”

And a final thought from a biologist.

“There may be a threat to the restaurant industry but in reality, they are the safest places other than your own kitchen,” said Stephan Logan, M.Sc., with Indigo Instruments, which provides sanitizer test strips for the industry. “All are under the watchful eye of public health inspectors who make sure that proper sanitation procedures are followed. Of course, if some doesn’t know s/he’s contagious & isn’t careful where they sneeze, all bets are off.”