With more states lifting restrictions for restaurants, and the vaccine becoming more ubiquitous, it seems like it’s finally time to welcome back customers to your establishment. But before you do, there are some steps that need to be taken to safeguard your interior dining areas.
According to both the CDC and the National Restaurant Association, one major area they recommend restauranteurs should focus on improving prior to fully opening is their indoor air quality (IAQ). Ensuring the IAQ of your restaurant is clean and safe not only provides peace-of-mind, but safeguards against the transmission of COVID-19, which is an airborne virus. Though you, your staff and customers should still take regular safety precautions like washing and sanitizing hands regularly, wearing masks and social distancing, improving the indoor air quality of your restaurant is another vital safety measure you should be taking to prevent the spread of germs and viruses.
Here are some tips to improving the indoor air quality of your restaurant to promote a healthy and safe dining environment.
Have Your HVAC System Inspected
Start off with a solid air quality foundation by having your HVAC system professionally inspected and repaired where needed. Having the HVAC system inspected will determine if it’s functioning properly, locate areas that need to be cleaned and replace air filters where necessary. Making such improvements and repairs will help increase the circulation of clean air within an indoor space while prolonging the life of your HVAC system.
Open Those Windows and Doors
Bring some fresh air into your restaurant by opening windows and doors (when weather permits). Doing so helps with improving IAQ and gives a fresh air supply to circulate throughout your restaurant. And if you want to get the most out of that new supply of fresh air, utilize strategically placed fans to increase airflow and rid the space of contaminated air.
Additionally, it’s also recommended that you open dampeners—again, weather-permitting—to increase the circulation of outdoor airflow to purge the inside of your restaurant from stagnant air.
Both the CDC and ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) stress the importance of checking, changing and utilizing proper filtration in your restaurant’s air systems. Regularly changing your air filters helps your HVAC system work to its fullest potential while providing optimal filtration and protection from viruses, pollutants, mold and more. Not only is filtration vital for maintaining proper IAQ, but the type of filter used makes a huge difference.
The gold standard in filtration are HEPA filters, and filters that sport a MERV (or “Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values”) rating of 13, if possible. When looking for replacement air filters, check for a high MERV rating, as this informs of how effective the filter is at capturing the smallest airborne particles. With this combination of a high-quality filter and high MERV rating, your air circulation system will be able to perform at its top condition while trapping harmful contaminants.
Invest in a Portable Air Purifier
Portable air purifiers and air cleaners are incredibly useful and can further maintain better and healthier air quality. Recommended by the National Restaurant Association, the CDC and ASHRAE, air purifiers are an excellent solution to improving the air quality within your restaurant, as they can capture pollutants, mold, bacteria and viruses in a space and essentially clean it. Not only does this improve the indoor air quality of your restaurant, it also provides a safer environment for your guests and employees.
When looking for the right air purifier for your restaurant, be sure to keep factors like the square footage of your restaurant or indoor dining space, the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) and Air Changes per Hour (ACH) of the air purifier in mind, as these correlate to how effective an air purifier will work. Many air purification systems are commercial-grade air purifiers that have a multi-stage filtration system designed to capture harmful viruses, bacteria and more in large spaces. Additionally, if possible, utilizing a system that incorporates a UV-C lamp—which is safe around humans—can also help neutralize airborne viruses.