Guidelines released by Fáilte Ireland and the government today outline what our restaurant experience will look like when they reopen on June 29.
While many of us have been dreaming of a meal out for months now, when we are finally allowed back into restaurants our experience will be quite different than we remember. Eat-in food businesses including cafes and restaurants are allowed to reopen from June 29, and Fáilte Ireland and the government have released guidelines for how they will operate.
Arriving at the restaurant
Everything about the guest's experience will be different from the outset, with walk-ins not recommended in order to ensure guests can be kept apart when arriving. If there is a need to queue, customers must stand two metres apart and there should be physical markers to show where they can stand. Only one member of a group should queue, while the rest wait in a suitable place, which might be outside or in their car.
The guidelines state that where possible, separate doors must be used for guests entering and exiting the restaurant, and doors must be propped open where possible if fire regulations permit it.
Ordering your meal
Diners must order from their seat wherever possible to reduce the possibility of queues, so many restaurants will have to rethink the structure of their spaces.
Restaurant staff will be required to wear PPE, including face masks if they cannot stay two metres away from guests, which seems impossible since they have to place your food on your table.
The recommendations state that menus must be single use or made of a material that can easily be cleaned. Electronic menus, phone apps and menu boards are an alternative option that reduce the risk of transmission between customers, as well as servers verbally sharing the menu with guests.
Any spaces that have a bar are asked to prevent ordering at the counter, and instead take all orders, including drinks, at tables instead.
While the guidelines emphasise that there are no reports of transmission of Covid-19 via food, and that the main mode of transmission is from person to person, they nonetheless make some stipulations about the style of food that should not be served.
Sharing plates, it says, if an option on the menu, must be served in individual portions from the kitchen to reduce any risk of transmission between customers dining together. Tableside cooking must be suspended if physical distancing cannot be adhered to.
Where food is served buffet-style, all items displayed for guest use must be individually wrapped or be a single serve item. Common tongs or ladles must not be used and neither must common distribution containers from which guests help themselves.
There must also be no shared items on countertops or beside a carvery or buffet, such as water jugs and salt and pepper shakers. All self-serve condiments and utensils must be removed, and instead provided at guests' table if requested.
Behind the scenes
Reopening will take considerable effort from business owners to ensure all guidelines are met. All tables and other seating must be arranged to ensure groups of guests are kept 2 metres apart from each other, and staff need to receive training on how they must work within these new guidelines.
Restaurants also need to put processes in place that can deal with any cases of Covid-19 in either guests or staff. Enhanced hygiene measures, cleaning schedules and disinfection procedures will need to be carefully implemented. The guidelines recommend each workplace should appoint at least one employee whose responsibility it is to ensure that Covid-19 measures are adhered to.
The full recommendations can be read here.
Featured image: Andrew Seaman
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