Dining out during a pandemic: Experts release guide for restaurants to reopen

As Florida looks to gradually lift coronavirus restrictions, it will likely mean heading back to your favorite restaurant will be much different from before.

Doors are still closed, and dining rooms are empty. There’s still no official word from Governor DeSantis about when area restaurants can start welcoming back dine-in customers. 

“We’re all in this together and we all need each other’s help to get through it,” said Danielle Egger with Florida Food Safety Systems.

After getting requests from clients for advice about how to safely open their dining rooms, Egger tells FOX 13 News her team put together a recovery guide.

“I think that that’s something we’ll have to kinda ease people into, it’s not gonna be the dining experience that they’ve always had.”

The checklists contain suggestions like using throwaway menus and single-use items on the tables, and even ways to increase the dining experience and make the customer feel safe, while still social distancing.

Social distancing: What to do and what not to do to slow the spread of COVID-19

“To increase the ambiance of the restaurant themselves, instead of cordoning off half of their seats or half of their chairs, remove them completely,” said Egger.

Egger suggests not ditching the take-out right away since people will likely be apprehensive. She says restaurants should also consider going reservation-only, at first, so there won’t be crowds at the host stand.

“For the first couple of weeks it’s probably not a bad idea to reduce the menu items, that’s also going to help with the number of staff you have in the kitchen,” Egger said. “Social distancing isn’t just an issue for the customers; it’s going to be an issue for the staff also.”

MORE: Plan to reopen Florida will be unveiled Wednesday, DeSantis tells president

The guidelines also get into cleaning and sanitizing, as well as staffing advice to limit possible COVID-19 exposures.

A lot of thought and preparation goes into making sure sitting down for a meal is once again a safe activity.

“We are going to get back to normal, it will be slow, but we will get back to normal, and it will be a new normal but that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” said Egger.

The National Restaurant Association and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have also recently released recommendations to help restaurants re-start when they get the green light to re-open.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to covid-19@flhealth.gov. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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