Can Food Businesses Adapt to the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Large restaurant chains such as Starbucks are preventing the use of reusable cups to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Large restaurant chains such as Starbucks are preventing the use of reusable cups to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

What is changing for food businesses during the pandemic?

For food businesses that continue to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, business-as-usual operations are shifting to reduce risk to customers, staff and the business as a whole. Cleaning and sanitization is increasing in frequency, as well as what items within a food premises that need to be sanitized.

Personal hygiene standards are being strictly reinforced, and other measures are being put in place to ensure safety standards are being met. It is advised to exceed the current safety protocols for a food business as it increases the success of preventing the spread of COVID-19. As it stands, there is very little room for error in the food industry environment.

How can businesses adapt to the changing environment?

Here are some dos and don’ts for adapting your food business to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Use reusable cups

Large restaurant chains in the US, such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, are taking significant steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in their locations by denying the use of reusable cups by customers. There is evidence that COVID-19 can live on surfaces for up to nine days, so a reusable coffee cup can easily harbor the coronavirus and be spread from customer to food server when a drink is being re-filled.

Give out free samples

As of early March, Costco has announced that it will no longer be providing free samples in its stores in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus among customers. There is a high risk of biological contamination of food in self-service facilities, like buffets, where food can potentially be coughed on, sneezed on or touched by multiple customers. Think of a free sample tray as a mini-buffet, and it is clear why free samples should be halted in all food businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Allow close contact

Social distancing is one of the main ways that government officials are encouraging the public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This mandate applies to restaurants as well. If possible, re-arrange your seating setup in your premises so that a 1 meter distance can be maintained between tables and groups of people. Making this adaptation will not only follow protocols for social distancing, but help your customers to feel comfortable entering into your premises.


Increase take-out and home delivery methods

With a decline in physical customers being felt in many food businesses, increasing your take-out or home delivery options and availability can help maintain business continuity. In some areas, a state of emergency has been put in place which effectively makes all restaurants and bars change operations during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In some cases, businesses are still allowed to provide take-out or home deliveries if those are service options. If you do not currently provide take-out service or home delivery, consider adapting to that model in the event your business is mandated to alter operations.

Create new protocols for receiving deliveries

It can be proactive to put new measures in place when receiving food deliveries from your suppliers. Since food delivery personnel often come to the receiving door with orders, it is important to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 from outside sources. Contact your supplier to learn what methods they are putting in place to keep their workers and customers safe. You may be able to negotiate a “no-contact” protocol with your supplier to eliminate direct contact when receiving deliveries.

Update your home delivery service to provide a “no contact” option

If you do provide home delivery as part of your business model, you can update your website or associated app to include an option for “no contact” delivery. This means that customers can choose to have their delivery person ring the doorbell or knock on the door, place the food at the front door and then back a significant distance away and wait until the customer opens the door and picks up the food. This requires that you accept online payment for the food, so consider this before making this an option for your customers.

Train your staff on COVID-19

All staff in a food business are advised to obtain COVID-19 specific training that provides up-to-date knowledge on SARS-CoV-2 and how to prevent the spread of the virus within a food premises. Standard food safety training can help your staff to know proper hygiene and sanitization protocols, but more is needed in the current coronavirus situation. The COVIDSafe™ Professional Program trains staff on COVID-19 and provides tools and resources to survive the impact of the coronavirus crisis.