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When It Comes to Re-Opening, It's All About Safety First

A guide to best practices for re-opening

Katherine Miller

May 14, 2020

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Since restaurants first began to scale back operations, and, in some cases, fully close, we’ve remained confident that they would also re-open for business. While the fragile economic model of the industry is now pushing some owners to make the sad decision to close permanently (about one percent or 4,400 independent restaurants, according to our most recent member survey) hundreds of thousands of owners and operators are determining how and when to re-open their businesses.

The decisions aren’t easy. The federal government, state governments, and municipalities are all giving guidance, but much of it is inconsistent or in conflict with health and safety information from experts.

This is why the James Beard Foundation is proud to partner with the Aspen Institute, World Central Kitchen, and Off Their Plate to make the Safety First: Serving Food and Protecting People During Covid-19 guide available for free to our industry partners including chefs, restaurant owners, and operators around the country.

For more than a month, Dr. Sam Dooley, a 32-year veteran infection-control specialist at the Centers for Disease Control, and James Beard Award–winning journalist Corby Kummer compiled health and safety guides from nonprofits, restaurants, and regulatory agencies to come up with “the baker’s dozen—or 13 commandments—of basic operating rules that any kitchen should follow." They worked with dozens of chefs, owners, and restaurateurs around the country, including Ashley Christensen, Hari Pulapaka, Patrick Mulvaney, Jason Doo, Ryan Lee, Jimmy Khaw, and Tracy Chang (founding chef partner of Off Their Plate).

Already in use in restaurants such as Black Sheep in Hong Kong; in the emergency feeding operations of World Central Kitchen, Off Their Plate, The Lee Initiative, and Family Meal; and the thousands of organizations and restaurants providing meals to restaurant workers, healthcare professionals, and the food-insecure, we hope these guidelines will help every restaurant reo-pen with an eye towards health and safety first.

We encourage everyone to download the guide, review it with your staff, and make sure that your re-opening plans take the recommendations into account. While not a replacement for each state’s and city’s mandated regulations around re-opening, we hope this guide will help owners, management, and staff better understand the need for more stringent health and safety protocols.

The guide is also intended to help restaurant owners effectively communicate with their customers and open a dialogue to strengthen the social contract between restaurants and clients. For decades the food and beverage industry has been among the most trusted industries—in part because of its dedication to customer safety.

At this moment many customers are wary of returning to sit-down restaurants but together we can reestablish trust and confidence in dining out.

Available today in English, the guide will roll out in multiple languages over the next couple of weeks including Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese translations.

Read more about the project in the press release.

For full list of COVID-19 resources, please visit our relief page.

Donate to the ongoing relief and industry education efforts of the James Beard Foundation.

Image courtesy of the Aspen Institute.