Dining out safely

The changes….

New Covid restrictions have recenly been announced in the UK and with the new restrictions changes have had to be made which have affected all parts of our lives.

One thing that hasn’t changed with these new restrictions is we are still being encoraged to dine out and continue to keep the hospitality sector alive.

Which is brilliant, however how can we be encoraged to dine out with restrictions flying around everywhere and a pandemic right at our doorstep.

How do we know we are dining safely?

Which restrictions apply and where?

How can dining out still be safe in the mists of a pandemic?

The virus….

First thing first, transmittion.

Knowledge is power, so understanding the basics of how a virus can spread can hopefully help reduce some anxiety.

Covid-19, like the flu virus, is thought to be spread by two ways:

Respiratory particals are super small particals of fluid that are normally generated from coughing, sneezing or transmitted from a contaminated surface. These droplets are then inhaled or touched spreading from one person to another.

This risk of spread is also increased when people are indoors, together for a prolonger period of time in one room or when multipul people are within close proximity to each other, for example a restaurant setting.

It is not yet known fully how long Covid-19 can last on surfaces, research at this time reports between 2-9 days. However, this depends on the surface contaminated and where this surface is, for example is the surface a flat cutting board in a hot kitchen or a cardboard box in a freezer unit. Different temperatures, humidity and type of surfaces will greatly changed the life span of a virus. The risk of contracting Covid-19 from surface contact appears low, however it is still a risk and one needed to be managed effectivly.

Research conducted has shown it is very unlikely and very low risk of catching Covid-19 directly from food or food contact materials.

This does not mean however, that a high level of food and personal hygiene should be obsered when handling, preparing or cooking food.

So how are restaurants managing the risks….

Looking at the infomation above the potential risks whilst dining out are:

  • Proximity of other to yourselves for a prolonged time
  • Contamination from surfaces
  • Person to person close contact
  • Communication
  • Managment of symptoms

So how can these be managed in a setting where communication is key especially for those of us with food allergies and where others will need to be close to you and your food to actually dine out.

Lets look at the one at a time;

Proximity of others to yourself for a prolonged time

There are several methods restaurants have put into place to reduce the amount of time we spend together in one place.

Pre-booking/reservations- This is a simple way to manage the amount of people entering a restaurant. By asking people to pre-book the restaurant can make sure they are not overloaded with customers and can adhere to the social distancing policies in place. However, most restaurants will also allow walk-ins as this is where they are more likey to gain the majority of their custom.

Allocated time solts– Personally I have yet to come across this outwardly mentioned when I visted places however I have heard from friends that some restaurants are allocating time slots for customers and telling them on arrival or booking. I suppose with some restaurants asking for you to pre-book that in itself is allocating a time slot.

Staggering time arrivals- Staggering time allocated slots allows restaurants to not have all their customers turn up at the same time; lessening the risk of multipul people all gathering in one area, like the entrance. However, this does not work when walk-ins arrive.

Contamination from surfaces-

Cleaning, hand hygiene and disinfecting is and should be at the for front of catering services. There are many icky things that can be picked up and transfered onto surface when dealing with food and the public.

There and so many legal guidelines, policys, procedures and training that restaurant owners and staff must comply to and follow to be able to open a restaurant safely.

However, there has been several new ones commenced with the start of the pandemic. I could spent all day infoming you of the policies and guidlines they are to follow, for more infomation please visit the Food Standard Agency website.

One however I would like to draw to your attention is the Safer food, better business, for caterers guidence (SFBB). This guidence covers several subjects including cleaning and cross-contamination.

The guidence provide restaurants with checklists for staff to follow regarding cleaning. The checklist includes a cleaning schedual which indicates when and with what staff should be using to decontaminate surface. It also breaksdown what chemical/cleaners are to be used and where. This I feel is a really good way of restaurants managing their cleaning scheduals. We have all been in the situation where you have a thousand things going on at once and something simple can be missed. Missing a cleaning schedual in the middle of a pandemic can be dangerous and one you do not want to forget. So a checklist is a perfect reminder and guidence for all.

There is also a opening and closing checklist for restaurants to follow which includes a “extra check” section which is part filled but can be added to by the restaurant.

Person to person close contact-

Face coverings- Inline with guidence set by the goverment we should all be at least 2 meters away from other people when possible to do so. Now that can not be managed if being served food, unless the server has really long arms.

To manage this as best possible guidelines have now been set that all persons within a restaurant setting, server and customer, must wear a face covering at all times unless eating and drinking.

Face masks have shown to reduce the spread of the respitory droplets; they are to protect others from you rather you from others.

Retailers do not have to wear a face covering if:

“businesses have taken steps in line with Health and Safety Executive guidance for COVID-19 secure workplaces to create a physical barrier between workers and members of the public then staff behind the barrier will not be required to wear a face covering”

One way systems– Many restaurants have also put one way systems into place to help with the flow of people around the room. This will help limit people coming into close contact when entering, exiting or moving around the restaurant.

Spaced seating- Reducing the amount of tables within a room allows the restaurant to abide to the 2 meter distance guidence and gives servers and customers space to move around the room more freely and safely. This however can impact on the restaurants income as they will be serving a smaller amount of customers per day.

Communication-

This is a major part of dining out especially if you are a food allergy suffer. I have noticed that effective communication regarding food allergies has reduced, be that via menu or verbal communition.

Face covering- Face coverings are important as noted above, but so is communicating your allergy needs. Although we are adviced to keep our face coverings on until our food arrives we must make sure that we are able to communicate our needs clearly and I believe that if you need to remove your mask to do this then this is ok as long as your server is a safe distance away from you. Food allergies can be very serious if mistakes happen so making sure your server is fully aware is very important.

Menus- This has become the bugbear of my life recently. As I explained in the sadness of dining out, menus appear to be less infomative then previously. Menu are currently either disposable or online. This is a brilliant way of managing cross contamination, however allergy infomation appears to be missing or miss recorded from several menus on my recent experiances dining out. Menu are your first point of infomation about the food being served and the allergens contained within that food. Law in the UK states that all providors of pre-packed and non-pre packed food items must indicate what allergens are in their food. If you have visited a restaurant or consumed a food product with an allergen present that you were not informed about you can contact the Food Standard Agency here to complete their report a food problem form.

Managing symptoms-

First ond foremost,

Do not go out if you are experiancing symptoms of Covid-19 or have been informed you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

The best way to manage the pandemic and stop the spread is do not go out if you are unwell or have been exposed to the virus.

There are many companies that will deliver if you are isolating and still want your favourite meal.

Please be sensible.

If you are able to go out the restaurants have a few methods to manage the symptoms:

Temperature checks– You may be asked to have your temperature checked on entering a restaurant.

As a nurse I am fully aware that recording a temperature can be a confusing physical observation to read. Yes, obviously someone with a temperature of 38C+ is more than likely to have a fever and should not be let into a restaurant but what if their temperature is just above normal, is this still safe?

Normal adult temperature range from 36.1C – 37.2C.

However, you need to take into consideration several factors;

  • Gender- womens tempricture can be raised during their periods
  • Enviroment- is it hot or cold outside. Do they have several layers of clothing on
  • Timing- have they just eaten something hot or cold, if a oral temperature is being taken
  • Equipment- different thermometers can read temperatures differently, tympanic (in the ear) are the most accurate to be used in public areas however infaread forhead thermometers are most commonly used as they require no contact

Test and trace-

By now everyone in the UK will have heard of the goverments test and trace system.

You will be asked to scan the QR code on the test and trace app if you have downloaded it before entering the restaurant. If you do not have the app you will be asked to provid your contact information.

Gaining this infomation is a legal requirement for the restaurant.

The infomation provided will be used to contact you if you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. You will be infomed of this by email, text or phone call.

Please see Gov.uk website here regarding test and trace for further infomation.

The infomation above is not to worry you and discourage you from dining out, it is to provide you with as much infomation as you need to make a informed decision about wheather you feel dining out is something you feel comfortable in doing.

If you wish to complete some research around dining out and the safety procedures put into place for customers and staff please make sure you are seeking infomation from reputable sites. Please see below some site I use:

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