Is your Restaurant Ready to Re-open?

As Hawaii inches back to a new version of being open for business, there will be a lot of new regulations and recommendations for restaurants that will certainly include social distancing, masks, and extra sanitation measures. We are all waiting for this information from the Governor’s Office – that your Hawaii Restaurant Association is closely working with.

Once the green light comes, your restaurant must comply with all the Hawaii regulations, and following the recommendations found in the National Restaurant Association COVID19 Reopening Guidance can help you get ready.

One of your first steps is to create a plan that works for both Front and Back of House. Your staff need to feel that they will be working in a safe environment. Do you have a health/illness form that is understood and signed by each of your staff? This outlines what illnesses and symptoms need to be reported to the manager, and that the employee will also stay home if they have any listed symptoms. If you already have one, you may want to re-issue and discuss with your staff.

Personal hygiene has always been more than taking a shower before work. A refresher course on handwashing would be a great idea – 20 seconds before gloving and when they come off. Avoid touching nose, mouth eyes. The reason we wear masks is to filter the air, but can be uncomfortable. However, if they are touched or adjusted, hands – even gloved hands – should be washed.

Speaking of handwashing – I would suggest to change out the ‘employees must wash hands’ with new signs that state ‘wash hands’. Search for ideas by searching ‘wash hand sign’ for a load of options. Make sure there are multiple signs in prominent spots. Do you have those paperless driers? Pre-COVID, I was in a restroom that was paperless at the sinks. A guest wanted to not touch the door handle to get out, so he actually pulled out his shirt tail to handle!! Please install some paper towels for guests to open the door.

In the ‘good old days’, a guest experience of a restaurants cleanliness was always important, but kind of done in the background. Now, for your guests to feel safe, they want to see active wiping and sanitizing. Along with using paper menus that are discarded after use, no condiments on the tables, all areas that get touched should be wiped with a sanitizer. Ecolab and other chemical suppliers carry Peroxide based sanitizers. Peroxide has been found to be effective against Coronavirus. Make sure you have the MSDS, labeled bottles, and your staff is trained in safe use. Contact your suppliers for details, or Creating a checklist of all areas that need to be wiped after each guest would be helpful. This would include all areas that would not be normally wiped, such as chairs, pos tablets, door handles.

There is currently not a frequency recommendation for sanitizing areas, but like handwashing, you can never do that too often. The dining public has become hyper sensitive on cleaning and sanitizing. Make sure your entire staff works to keep the restaurant cleaned & sanitized. Guests will also really focus on workers habits, and may contact the Health Department.

A lot of dining rooms are open to the outside, which is best, but AC systems should not recirculate the air, and have filters in place. Check with your buildings management. If your front doors need to be pulled or pushed, consider leaving them open to avoid a touch area.

If you had shut down fully, bringing your kitchen back would include turning on & testing all equipment. I used to work in a place where we froze milk at the end of a busy season. That was wrong! Any dairy that has expired, even if frozen, must not be used.

Review your management teams ServSafe Food Managers Certifications. Some may have or are close to expiring. Peter B Food Safety and the HRA are working on exciting options – watch for upcoming news!

One of the states that has started to release guidance for their restaurants is California. I am sure that the Hawaii guidance will have similar elements. Here is their guidance.

When restrictions are eased – and they will be – Food Safety Audits and ServSafe Managers courses will resume. Contact to set up an HRA discounted Food Safety Audit or details on upcoming ServSafe Classes. Sign up for the newsletter at


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