Considerations for Restaurants and Bars | COVID-19




As restaurants and bars resume operations in some areas of the United States, CDC offers the following considerations for ways in which operators can protect employees, customers, and communities and slow the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants and bars can determine, in collaboration with state and local health officials, whether and how to implement these considerations, making adjustments to meet the needs and circumstances of the local community. Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community. These considerations are meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which businesses must comply.

Guiding Principles to Keep in Mind

The more an individual interacts with others, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. The risk of COVID-19 spread increases in a restaurant or bar setting as follows:

  • Lowest Risk: Food service limited to drive-through, delivery, take-out, and curb-side pick up.
  • More Risk: Drive-through, delivery, take-out, and curb-side pick up emphasized. On-site dining limited to outdoor seating. Seating capacity reduced to allow tables to be spaced at least 6 feet apart.
  • Even More Risk: On-site dining with both indoor and outdoor seating. Seating capacity reduced to allow tables to be spaced at least 6 feet apart.
  • Highest Risk: On-site dining with both indoor and outdoor seating. Seating capacity not reduced and tables not spaced at least 6 feet apart.

COVID-19 is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze. It is thought that the virus may spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose or mouth, causing infection. Therefore, personal prevention practices (such as handwashing, staying home when sick) and environmental cleaning and disinfection are important principles that are covered in this document. Fortunately, there are a number of actions operators of restaurants and bars can take to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread.

Promoting Behaviors that Reduce Spread

Restaurants and bars may consider implementing several strategies to encourage behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19 among employees and customers.

  • Staying Home when Appropriate
  • Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette
    • Require frequent employee handwashing (e.g. before, during, and after preparing food; after touching garbage) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and increase monitoring to ensure adherence.
    • In addition to any state or local requirements regarding glove use in restaurant operations, glove use is only recommended when removing garbage bags or handling and disposing of trash and when handling used or dirty food service items.
      • Employees should always wash their hands after removing gloves.
    • Encourage employees to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Used tissues should be thrown in the trash and hands washed immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
      • If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cloth Face Coverings
    • Require the use of cloth face coverings among all staff, as feasible. Face coverings are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult. Information should be provided to staff on proper use, removal, and washing of cloth face coverings.
      • Note: Cloth face coverings should not be placed on:
        • Babies and children younger than 2 years old
        • Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious
        • Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance
    • Cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. Cloth face coverings are not surgical masks, respirators, or personal protective equipment.
  • Adequate Supplies
    • Ensure adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene behaviors. Supplies include soap, hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol (placed on every table, if supplies allow), paper towels, tissues, disinfectant wipes, cloth face coverings (as feasible), and no-touch/foot pedal trash cans.
  • Signs and Messages

Maintaining Healthy Environments

Restaurants and bars may consider several implementing strategies to maintain healthy environments.

  • Cleaning and Disinfection
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (e.g., door handles, cash registers, workstations, sink handles, bathroom stalls) at least daily, or as much as possible and as required by food safety requirements. Clean shared objects (e.g., payment terminals, tables, countertops/bars, receipt trays, condiment holders) between each use.
      • Continue to follow all required safety laws, regulations, and rules.
      • Use products that meet EPA disinfection criteriaexternal icon and that are appropriate for the surface. Allow the disinfectant to remain on the surface for the contact time recommended by the manufacturer.
      • Establish a disinfection routine and train staff on proper cleaning timing and procedures to ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants.
      • Wash, rinse, and sanitize food contact surfaces with an EPA-approved food contact surface sanitizer. If a food-contact surface must be disinfected for a specific reason, such as a blood or bodily fluid cleanup or deep clean in the event of likely contamination with SARS-CoV-2, use the following procedure: wash, rinse, disinfectant according to the label instructions for the disinfectant, rinse, then sanitize with a food-contact surface sanitizer.
      • Ensure that cleaning or disinfecting product residues are not left on table surfaces. Residues could cause allergic reactions or cause someone to ingest the chemicals.
    • Develop a schedule for increased, routine cleaning and disinfection.
    • Ensure safe and correct use and storage of disinfectants to avoid food contamination and harm to employees and other individuals. This includes storing products securely away from children.
    • Use gloves when removing garbage bags or handling and disposing of trash. Wash hands after removing gloves.
  • Shared Objects
    • Discourage sharing of items that are difficult to clean, sanitize, or disinfect.
    • Limit any sharing of food, tools, equipment, or supplies by staff members.
    • Ensure adequate supplies to minimize sharing of high-touch materials (e.g., serving spoons) to the extent possible; otherwise, limit use of supplies and equipment by one group of workers at a time and clean and disinfect between use.
    • Avoid using or sharing items that are reusable, such as menus, condiments, and any other food containers. Instead, use disposable or digital menus, single serving condiments, and no-touch trash cans and doors.
    • Use touchless payment options as much as possible, if available. Ask customers and employees to exchange cash or card payments by placing on a receipt tray or on the counter rather than by hand to avoid direct hand to hand contact. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as pens, counters, or hard surfaces between use and encourage patrons to use their own pens.
    • Use disposable food service items (e.g., utensils, dishes, napkins, tablecloths). If disposable items are not feasible or desirable, ensure that all non-disposable food service items are handled with gloves and washed with dish soap and hot water, or in a dishwasher. Change and launder linen items (e.g., napkins and tablecloths) after each customer or party’s use. Employees should wash their hands after removing their gloves or after handling used food service items.
    • Avoid use of food and beverage utensils and containers brought in by customers.
  • Ventilation
    • Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, for example by opening windows and doors and prioritizing outdoor seating. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety or health risk to customers or employees (e.g., risk of falling or triggering asthma symptoms).
  • Water Systems
    • To minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water, take steps to ensure that all water systems and features (e.g., sink faucets, decorative fountains, drinking fountains) are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown.
  • Modified Layouts and Procedures
    • Change restaurant and bar layouts to ensure that all customer parties remain at least 6 feet apart (e.g., marking tables/stools that are not for use).
    • Limit seating capacity to allow for social distancing.
    • Offer drive-through, curbside take out, or delivery options as applicable. Prioritize outdoor seating as much as possible.
    • Ask customers to wait in their cars or away from the establishment while waiting to pick up food or when waiting to be seated. Inform customers of food pickup and dining protocols on the business’ website and on posted signs.
    • Discourage crowded waiting areas by using phone app, text technology, or signs to alert patrons when their table is ready. Avoid using “buzzers” or other shared objects.
    • Consider options for dine-in customers to order ahead of time to limit the amount of time spent in the establishment.
    • Avoid offering any self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets, salad bars, and drink stations.
  • Physical Barriers and Guides
    • Install physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, particularly in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart. Barriers can be useful in restaurant kitchens and at cash registers, host stands, or food pickup areas where maintaining physical distance of at least 6 feet is difficult.
    • Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signage, to ensure that individuals remain at least 6 feet apart. Consider providing these guides where lines form, in the kitchen, and at the bar.
  • Communal Spaces

Maintaining Healthy Operations

Restaurants and bars may consider implementing several strategies to maintain healthy operations.

Preparing for Sick Employees

Restaurants and bars may consider implementing several strategies to prepare for when someone gets sick.

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