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This guide is specifically written to help people in the F&B industry reduce the risk of their businesses accidentally spreading Coronavirus (aka Covid-19).

The suggestions here are low/no-cost and are generally good practice—they have also been evaluated by epidemiologists, public health experts, biologists, and doctors.

We’ll update the guide continually to incorporate comments and new developments as we learn more about coronavirus.

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Many people helped put this together, including Laurence Berland, Feroz Gajia, Jennifer Gardy, Paul Henninger, Belinda Lester, Erik Garrison, Mika Matsuzaki, Jake Parrott, Harper Reed, and Pam Yung.

The Guide:

Coronavirus Guide for F&B

What is coronavirus (aka COVID-19) and why does it matter?

  • COVID-19, sometimes simply called coronavirus, is an illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It starts out like a cold or the flu but in some cases can make people very sick and sometimes kills them.
  • You can have coronavirus without knowing it.
  • Coronavirus spreads when your nose, mouth, or eyes come into direct contact with body fluid infected with the coronavirus—this can be from human contact, droplets in the air, or from infected body fluid on hands, hard and soft surfaces, cloths, aprons, and clothing.
  • Older people and those who are already ill are at great risk of becoming extremely ill or dying if they are infected by coronavirus.
  • Some people infected with coronavirus show no symptoms for many days. You can infect others even if you have no symptoms.
  • People infected with coronavirus are probably most infectious starting when they begin to show symptoms (which are similar to symptoms of colds and flu).
  • If coronavirus infections become widespread, this is likely to cause healthcare systems to break down. This has already happened in Italy and China. This makes it difficult or impossible for people who might healthcare for other reasons to get the care they need. This may cause a long economic recession, if not a depression.

Why does coronavirus matter for the food and beverage industry?

  • Restaurants, bars, coffeeshops, and pubs are places where it is especially easy for coronavirus to spread–both to your staff and to your customers. Your actions could save many lives, even if you’re not likely to become infected yourself.
  • Coronavirus can remain active on surfaces for many hours (we still don’t know for sure how long). These surfaces include counters, cloths, clothing, dishes, glasses, cutlery, storage containers, packing boxes, doorknobs/handles, faucets/taps, credit cards, credit card terminals, POS systems, keyboards and mice, tablets, cellphones, and money.
  • Even if you are strictly following regular sanitation practices, you need to take special precautions to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection.
  • There’s always the risk that one of your staff or customers will get sick from the coronavirus, unless you shut down the business temporarily. There is no other way to completely eliminate the risk that coronavirus will spread through your business–but you can and should take steps to reduce that risk.

What can you do to reduce coronavirus risk in your business?

If you have no time right now to read further, just doing these three things will be enormously helpful in slowing the spread of coronavirus.

  1. Ask your staff to dramatically increase frequency of handwashing.
  2. Schedule much more frequent and intense cleaning and sanitizing of all equipment and surfaces in your establishment
  3. Remember: What you and your staff do will make a difference–washing hands and cleaning more often can literally save lives.

If you do have time to read on, there are many things you can do to reduce the risk of your staff accidentally getting coronavirus, or accidentally giving a customer coronavirus.

The most important takeaways

  1. A restaurant/bar/cafe/pub can accidentally make a lot of people sick.
  2. Stop sick staff from coming in to work.
  3. Make sure regular hygiene and sanitization practices are strictly upheld–and make them even stricter if you can. (Many suggestions below.)
  4. Remind your staff to be conscious of not touching things unnecessarily, including their own face, their cellphone, their clothing, cutlery, plates.
  5. Train all staff in proper handwash procedure.
  6. Remind all staff to wash or sanitize their hands as often as possible, ideally every 10-15 minutes or after touching a surface which might be contaminated (including cellphones, clothing, POS/payment machines, door or equipment handles, used plates/cutlery, used napkins/serviettes, and other people)
  7. Do your best to move your business as much to takeout/delivery as possible.

For many more low/no-cost things you can do to reduce coronavirus risk, please read on.

Do once

  • Ensure that all food safety, hygiene and COSHH documents are updated and that all staff are informed and trained as necessary.
  • Make and share a plan for staff wages so people don’t feel undue financial pressure to work when they are sick. If you are able to, guarantee basic pay for hourly staff who cannot work because they are ill.
    • In the UK: Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be available from Day 1 for those unable to work because they are diagnosed with coronavirus, or self-isolating according to Government guidelines.
  • Find out if you have a local or national coronavirus reporting hotline number. If yes, post it prominently in the restaurant, and make sure all staff know it.
    • In the UK, report to NHS 111.
  • Issue all staff with an inexpensive thermometer.
  • Remind staff not to hug, fistbump, shake hands, or high-five–if possible, not even to elbow-bump. Instead find non-contact ways to show the love.
  • Put up a clearly visible sign at the entrance and on your website asking people who are ill or elderly not to enter.
  • Check laundry processes for all service linens. This includes chef jackets, uniforms, towels, cloths, aprons, table linens.
    • Call your linen service to verify that it is complying with sanitation regulations for service linens.
    • If you launder service linens on-site, use water above 160F/70C (add bleach at the label recommended concentration to be extra-sure). If laundry water temperature is below 160F/70C, you must use hypochlorite bleach or another disinfecting product at the label recommended concentration.
  • Check all cleaning and sanitation products to make sure they are antiviral–soap, alcohol, food service sanitation sprays, bleach, and hydrogen peroxide solutions should be effective. Unfortunately some natural or low-toxicity cleaning products such as vinegar or essential oils may not be antiviral.
  • In the US, the EPA has a list of products effective against coronavirus here:
  • Check cleaning and sanitation products and spray bottles to make sure they are at label recommended dilution.
  • Change how your team handles clean glass, crockery, and cutlery to reduce to the absolute minimum the number of times each piece is touched. Polishing cloths are really easy to contaminate.
    • Stop polishing cutlery and glassware altogether.
    • If you must polish, ensure that staff wash their hands before and after touching items, and that cloths are replaced between each use
    • Move cutlery only once between cleaning and using for service.
  • Change how cooks plate so they only use spoons and tweezers (no use of hands, whether gloved or not).
  • Install pump-dispenser alcohol gel sanitizer bottles at kitchen and FOH stations (make sure the gel is at least 60% ethanol).
  • Move to contactless payments if possible.
  • Provide service stations with antiviral sanitizer wipes for use on cellphones, POS, payment terminals, keyboards/mice, and tablets.
  • Most people don’t know how to thoroughly wash their hands and wrists. Near staff and customer sinks, post a handwash notice with a diagram showing how to wash hands properly:
    • Download a printable 2-page PDF with a handwash notice and WHO recommended handwash methods at:
    • These are the most often-missed areas when washing hands: