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COVID-19: Considerations for Restaurants and Bars



(source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)


As restaurants and bars resume operations in some areas of the United States, CDC offers the following considerations for ways in which operators can protect employees, customers, and communities and slow the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants and bars can determine, in collaboration with state and local health officials, whether and how to implement these considerations, making adjustments to meet the needs and circumstances of the local community. Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community. These considerations are meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which businesses must comply.


Guiding Principles to Keep in Mind

The more an individual interacts with others, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. The risk of COVID-19 spread increases in a restaurant or bar setting as follows:

  • Lowest Risk: Food service limited to drive-through, delivery, take-out, and curb-side pick up.

  • More Risk: Drive-through, delivery, take-out, and curb-side pick up emphasized. On-site dining limited to outdoor seating. Seating capacity reduced to allow tables to be spaced at least 6 feet apart.

  • Even More Risk: On-site dining with both indoor and outdoor seating. Seating capacity reduced to allow tables to be spaced at least 6 feet apart.

  • Highest Risk: On-site dining with both indoor and outdoor seating. Seating capacity not reduced and tables not spaced at least 6 feet apart.

COVID-19 is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze. It is thought that the virus may spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose or mouth, causing infection. Therefore, personal prevention practices (such as handwashing, staying home when sick) and environmental cleaning and disinfection are important principles that are covered in this document. Fortunately, there are a number of actions operators of restaurants and bars can take to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread.



Promoting Behaviors that Reduce Spread

Restaurants and bars may consider implementing several strategies to encourage behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19 among employees and customers.

  • Staying Home when Appropriate

  • Educate employees about when they should stay home and when they can return to work.

  • Actively encourage employees who are sick or have recently had a close contact with a person with COVID-19 to stay home. Develop policies that encourage sick employees to stay at home without fear of reprisal, and ensure employees are aware of these policies.

  • Employees should stay home if they have tested positive for or are showing COVID-19 symptoms.

  • Employees who have recently had a close contact with a person with COVID-19 should also stay home and monitor their health.

  • CDC’s criteria can help inform when employees they may return to work:

  • If they have been sick with COVID-19

  • If they have recently had a close contact with a person with COVID-19

Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette

  • Require frequent employee handwashing (e.g. before, during, and after preparing food; after touching garbage) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and increase monitoring to ensure adherence.

  • Encourage employees to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Used tissues should be thrown in the trash and hands washed immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

  • If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Cloth Face Coverings

  • Require the use of cloth face coverings among all staff, as feasible. Face coverings are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult. Information should be provided to staff on proper use, removal, and washing of cloth face coverings.

  • Note: Cloth face coverings should not be placed on:

  • Babies and children younger than 2 years old

  • Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious

  • Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance

Cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. Cloth face coverings are not surgical masks, respirators, or personal protective equipment.


  • Adequate Supplies

  • Ensure adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene behaviors. Supplies include soap, hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol (placed on every table, if supplies allow), paper towels, tissues, disinfectant wipes, cloth face coverings (as feasible), and no-touch/foot pedal trash cans.


  • Signs and Messages

  • Post signs in highly visible locations (e.g., at entrances, in restrooms) that promote everyday protective measurespdf iconpdf icon and describe how to stop the spreadpdf iconpdf icon of germs such as by properly washing hands and properly wearing a cloth face coveringimage iconimage icon.

  • Include messages (for example, videos) about behaviors that prevent spread of COVID-19 when communicating with vendors, staff, and customers (such as on business websites, in emails,  and on social media accounts).

  • Find free CDC print and digital resources at the bars and restaurant page, as well as on CDC’s communications resources main page.


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