COVID-19 INDUSTRY GUIDANCE: Dine-In Restaurants

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Published: 06/8/20 2:04 PM

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COVID-19 INDUSTRY GUIDANCE: Dine-In Restaurants

This article was published on: 06/8/20 2:04 PM




OVERVIEW: On March 19, 2020, the State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health issued an order requiring most Californians to stay at home to disrupt the spread of COVID-19 among the population. This document provides COVID-19 Industry Guidance for Dine-In Restaurants.

The impact of COVID-19 on the health of Californians is not yet fully known. Reported illness ranges from very mild (some people have no symptoms) to severe illness that may result in death. Certain groups, including people aged 65 or older and those with serious underlying medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease or diabetes, are at higher risk of hospitalization and serious complications. Transmission is most likely when people are in close contact with an infected person, even if that person does not have any symptoms or has not yet developed symptoms.


Download the PDF version: COVID Guidance Dine In Restaurants.pdf


Precise information about the number and rates of COVID-19 by industry or occupational groups, including among critical infrastructure workers, is not available at this time. There have been multiple outbreaks in a range of workplaces, indicating that workers are at risk of acquiring or transmitting COVID-19 infection. Thus it is necessary for COVID-19 industry guidance to be provided. Examples of these workplaces include long-term care facilities, prisons, food production, warehouses, meat processing plants, and grocery stores.

As stay-at-home orders are modified, it is essential that all possible steps be taken to ensure the safety of workers and the public.

Key prevention practices include:

  • physical distancing to the maximum extent possible,
  • use of face coverings by employees (where respiratory protection is not required) and customers/clients,
  • frequent handwashing and regular cleaning and disinfection,
  • training employees on these and other elements of the COVID-19 prevention plan.

In addition, it will be critical to have in place appropriate processes to identify new cases of illness in workplaces and, when they are identified, to intervene quickly and work with public health authorities to halt the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 INDUSTRY GUIDANCE: PURPOSE

This document provides COVID-19 industry guidance for dine-in restaurants, brewpubs, craft distilleries, breweries, bars, pubs, and wineries to support a safe, clean environment for workers and customers. The guidance is not intended to revoke or repeal any employee rights, either statutory, regulatory or collectively bargained, and is not exhaustive, as it does not include county health orders, nor is it a substitute for any existing safety and health- related regulatory requirements such as those of Cal/OSHA.


(Note: Additional requirements must be considered for vulnerable populations. Dine-in restaurants, breweries, brewpubs, craft distilleries, and wineries that provide meals must comply with all Cal/OSHA standards and be prepared to adhere to its guidance as well as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Additionally, employers should be prepared to alter their operations as those guidelines change.)


Stay current on changes to public health guidance, COVID-19 industry guidance and state/local orders as the COVID-19 situation continues. Cal/OSHA has more comprehensive guidance on their Cal/OSHA Interim General Guidelines on Protecting Workers from COVID-19 webpage. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has guidance for restaurants and the CDC has additional requirements in their guidance for businesses and employers.

  • Brewpubs, breweries, bars, pubs, craft distilleries, and wineries should remain closed until those establishments are allowed to resume modified or full operation unless they are offering sit-down, dine-in meals. Alcohol can only be sold in the same transaction as a meal.
  • Dine-in restaurants, brewpubs, breweries, bars, pubs, craft distilleries, and wineries that provide sit-down meals should follow the restaurant guidance below and should continue to encourage takeout and delivery service whenever possible.
  • Brewpubs, breweries, bars, pubs, craft distilleries, and wineries that do not provide sit-down meals themselves, but can contract with another vendor to do so, can serve dine-in meals provided both businesses follow the guidance below and alcohol is only sold in the same transaction as a meal.
  • Venues that are currently authorized to provide off sale beer, wine, and spirits to be consumed off premises and do not offer sit-down, dine-in meals should follow the guidance for retail operations and offer curbside sales only, until local and/or statewide rules allow additional retail activity.
  • Producers of beer, wine, and spirits should follow the guidance for manufacturing operations.
  • This guidance is not intended for concert, performance, or entertainment venues. Those types of establishments should remain closed until they are allowed to resume modified or full operation through a specific reopening order or guidance. Establishments that serve full meals must discontinue this type of entertainment until these types of activities are allowed to resume modified or full operation.

COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Workplace Specific Plan

  • Establish a written, worksite-specific COVID-19 prevention plan at every location, perform a comprehensive risk assessment of all work areas, and designate a person at each establishment to implement the plan.
  • Identify contact information for the local health department where the restaurant is located for communicating information about COVID-19 outbreaks among employees or customers.
  • Train and communicate with employees and employee representatives on the plan.
  • Regularly evaluate the establishment for compliance with the plan and document and correct deficiencies identified.
  • Investigate any COVID-19 illness and determine if any work-related factors could have contributed to risk of infection. Update the plan as needed to prevent further cases.
  • Identify close contacts (within six feet for 15 minutes or more) of an infected employee and take steps to isolate COVID-19 positive employee(s) and close contacts.
  • Adhere to the guidelines below. Failure to do so could result in workplace illnesses that may cause operations to be temporarily closed or limited.

COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Topics for Employee Training

  • Information on COVID-19, how to prevent it from spreading, and which underlying health conditions may make individuals more susceptible to contracting the virus.
  • Self-screening at home, including temperature and/or symptom checks using CDC guidelines.
  • The importance of not coming to work if employees have a frequent cough, fever, difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, recent loss of taste or smell, or if they or someone they live with have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • To seek medical attention if their symptoms become severe, including persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, or bluish lips or face. Updates and further details are available on CDC’s webpage.
  • The importance of frequent handwashing with soap and water, including scrubbing with soap for 20 seconds (or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol when employees cannot get to a sink or handwashing station, per CDC guidelines).
  • The importance of physical distancing, both at work and off work time (see Physical Distancing section below).
  • Proper use of face coverings, including:
    • Face coverings do not protect the wearer and are not personal protective equipment (PPE).
    • Face coverings can help protect people near the wearer, but do not replace the need for physical distancing and frequent handwashing.
    • Employees should wash or sanitize hands before and after using or adjusting face coverings.
    • Avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth. o Face coverings should be washed after each shift.
  • Information on employer or government-sponsored leave benefits the employee may be entitled to receive that would make it financially easier to stay at home. See additional information on government programs supporting sick leave and worker’s compensation for COVID-19, including employee’s sick leave rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Governor’s Executive Order N-51-20, and employee’s rights to workers’ compensation benefits and presumption of the work- relatedness of COVID-19 pursuant to the Governor’s Executive order N-62- 20.

COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Individual Control Measures and Screening

  • Provide temperature and/or symptom screenings for all workers at the beginning of their shift and any vendors, contractors, or other workers entering the establishment. Make sure the temperature/symptom screener avoids close contact with workers to the extent possible. Both screeners and employees should wear face coverings for the screening.
  • If requiring self-screening at home, which is an appropriate alternative to providing it at the establishment, ensure that screening was performed prior to the worker leaving the home for their shift and follows CDC guidelines, as described in the Topics for Employee Training section above.
  • Encourage workers who are sick or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home.
  • Employers should provide and ensure workers use all required protective equipment, including face coverings and gloves where necessary.
  • Employers should consider where disposable glove use may be helpful to supplement frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizer; examples are for workers who are screening others for symptoms or handling commonly touched items. Workers should wear gloves when handling items contaminated by body fluids.
  • Face coverings are strongly recommended when employees are in the vicinity of others. Workers should have face coverings available and wear them when at work, in offices, or in a vehicle during work-related travel with others. Face coverings must not be shared.
  • Establishments must take reasonable measures, including posting signage in strategic and highly-visible locations, to remind the public that they should use face coverings and practice physical distancing while waiting for service and take-out.
  • Servers, bussers, and other workers moving items used by customers (dirty cups, plates, napkins, etc.) or handling trash bags should use disposable gloves (and wash hands before putting them on and after removing them) and provide aprons and change frequently.
  • Dishwashers should use equipment to protect the eyes, nose, and mouth from contaminant splash using a combination of face coverings, protective glasses, and/or face shields. Dishwashers must be provided impermeable aprons and change frequently. Reusable protective equipment such as shields and glasses should be properly disinfected between uses.

COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Cleaning and Disinfecting Protocols

  • Perform thorough cleaning in high traffic areas, such as customer waiting areas and lobbies, break rooms, lunch areas and areas of ingress and egress including host stands, entry ways, stairways, stairwells, escalators, handrails, and elevator controls. Frequently disinfect commonly used surfaces including doors, door handles, crash bars, light switches, waiting area chairs, credit card terminals, ATM PIN pads, receipt trays, bus tubs, serving trays, water pitcher handles, phones, toilets, and handwashing facilities.
  • Frequently clean items touched by patrons, especially those that might attract contact from children including candy and toy vending machines, decorative fish tanks, display cases, decorative fountains, etc.
  • Clean touchable surfaces between shifts or between users, whichever is more frequent, including but not limited to working surfaces, phones, registers, touchpads/touchscreens, tablets, timeclocks, appliances, kitchen and bar utensils and implements, oven doors, grill and range knobs, carts and trolleys, keys, etc.
  • Avoid sharing audio equipment, phones, tablets, laptops, desks, pens, and other work supplies wherever possible. Never share PPE.
  • Discontinue shared use of audio headsets and other equipment between employees unless the equipment can be properly disinfected after use. Consult equipment manufacturers to determine appropriate disinfection steps, particularly for soft, porous surfaces such as foam earmuffs.
  • Provide time for workers to implement cleaning practices during their shift. Cleaning assignments should be assigned during working hours as part of the employees’ job duties.
  • Procure options for third-party cleaning companies to assist with the increased cleaning demand, as needed.
  • Equip spaces such as dining rooms, bar areas, host stands, and kitchens with proper sanitation products, including hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes to all staff directly assisting customers.
  • Ensure that sanitary facilities stay operational and stocked at all times and provide additional soap, paper towels, and hand sanitizer when needed.
  • When choosing cleaning chemicals, employers should use products approved for use against COVID-19 on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved list and follow product instructions. Use disinfectants labeled to be effective against emerging viral pathogens, diluted household bleach solutions (5 tablespoons per gallon of water), or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol that are appropriate for the surface. Provide employees training on manufacturer’s directions and Cal/OSHA requirements for safe use. Workers using cleaners or disinfectants should wear gloves as required by the product instructions.
  • Restaurants should increase fresh air circulation by opening windows or doors, if possible to do so.
  • Consider installing portable high-efficiency air cleaners, upgrading the building’s air filters to the highest efficiency possible, and making other modifications to increase the quantity of outside air and ventilation in all working areas.
  • Provide disposable menus to guests and make menus available digitally so that customers can view on a personal electronic device, if possible. If disposable menus cannot be provided, properly disinfect menus before and after customer use. Consider options for customers to order ahead of time.
  • Discontinue pre-setting tables with napkins, cutlery, glassware, food ware, etc. These should be supplied individually to customers as needed. Do not leave card stands, flyers, napkin holders, or other items on tables.
  • Suspend use of shared food items such as condiment bottles, salt and pepper shakers, etc. and provide these foods in single serve containers, if possible. Where this is not possible, shared items such as condiment bottles, shakers, etc., should be supplied as needed to customers and disinfected after each use.
  • Pre-roll utensils in napkins prior to use by customers. Employees must wash hands before pre-rolling utensils in napkins. The pre-roll should then be stored in a clean container. After customers are seated, the pre-roll should be put on the table by an employee who recently washed their hands.
  • Reusable customer items including utensils, food ware, breadbaskets, etc., must be properly washed, rinsed, and sanitized. Cleaned flatware, stemware, dishware, etc., must be properly stored away from customers and personnel until ready for use. Use disposable items if proper cleaning of reusable items is infeasible.
  • Takeout containers must be filled by customers and available only upon request.
  • Dirty linens used at dining tables such as tablecloths and napkins should be removed after each customer use and transported from dining areas in sealed bags. Employees should wear gloves when handling dirty linens.
  • Thoroughly clean each customer dining location after every use. This will include disinfecting tables, chairs, booster seats, highchairs, booths, etc. and allowing adequate time for proper disinfection, following product instructions. Many EPA-approved disinfectants require minimal contact time (seconds to one minute) against human coronavirus.
  • Close areas where customers may congregate or touch food or food ware items that other guests may use. Provide these items to guests individually and discard or clean and disinfect after each use, as appropriate. This includes but is not limited to:
  • Self-service areas with condiment caddies, utensil caddies, napkins, lids, straws, water pitchers, to-go containers, etc.
  • Self-service machines including ice, soda, frozen yogurt dispensers, etc.
  • Self-service food areas such as buffets, salsa bars, salad bars, etc.
  • Discontinue tableside food preparation and presentation such as food item selection carts and conveyor belts, guacamole preparation, etc.
  • Do not leave out after-meal mints, candies, snacks, or toothpicks for customers. Offer them with the check or provide only on request.
  • Install hand sanitizer dispensers, touchless if possible, at guest and employee entrances and contact areas such as driveways, reception areas, in dining rooms, near elevator landings, etc.
  • Discontinue use of shared entertainment items such as board games, pool tables, arcade games, vending machines, etc. Close game and entertainment areas where customers may share items such as bowling alleys, etc.
  • Continue to follow existing codes regarding requirements for sanitizing (rather than disinfecting) food contact surfaces.

COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Physical Distancing Guidelines

  • Prioritize outdoor seating and curbside pickup to minimize cross flow of customers in enclosed environments. Restaurants can expand their outdoor seating, and alcohol offerings in those areas, if they comply with local laws and regulations.
  • Provide takeout, delivery, and drive through options for customers when possible.
  • Encourage reservations to allow for time to disinfect restaurant areas and provide guidance via digital platforms if possible to customers for physical distancing while at the restaurant.
  • Consider allowing dine-in customers to order ahead of time to limit the amount of time spent in the establishment.
  • Ask customers to wait in their cars or away from the establishment while waiting to be seated. If possible, alert patrons through their mobile phones when their table is ready to avoid touching and use of “buzzers.”
  • Implement measures to ensure physical distancing of at least six feet between workers and customers. This can include use of physical partitions or visual cues (e.g., floor markings or signs to indicate to where employees and/or guests should stand).
  • Install physical barriers or partitions at cash registers, bars, host stands, and other areas where maintaining physical distance of six feet is difficult.
  • Any area where guests or employees queue should also be clearly marked for appropriate physical distancing. This includes check-stands and terminals, deli counters and lines, restrooms, elevator lobbies, host stands and waiting areas, valet drop off and pickup, and any other area where customers congregate.
  • Physical distancing protocols should be used in any office areas, kitchens, pantries, walk-in freezers, or other high-density, high-traffic employee areas. Face coverings are required where employees cannot maintain physical distancing including in kitchens, storage areas, etc.
  • Employee pre-shift meetings and trainings should be conducted virtually or in areas that allow for appropriate physical distancing between employees. Food, beverages, food ware, etc., should not be shared.
  • Stagger employee breaks, in compliance with wage and hour regulations, to maintain physical distancing protocols.
  • Consider offering workers who request modified duties options that minimize their contact with customers and other employees (e.g., managing inventory rather than working as a cashier or managing administrative needs through telework.
  • Reconfigure office spaces, lobbies, beverage bars, kitchens and workstations, host stand areas, and other spaces wherever possible to allow for at least six feet of distance between people dining, working, and passing through areas for entry and exit.
  • Remove tables and chairs from dining areas so that six feet of physical distance can be maintained for customers and employees. If tables, chairs, booths, etc., cannot be moved, use visual cues to show that they are not available for use or install Plexiglas or other types of impermeable physical barriers to minimize exposure between customers.
  • Bar areas should remain closed to customers.
  • Discontinue seating of customers where customers cannot maintain six feet of distance from employee work and food and drink preparation areas.
  • Adjust maximum occupancy rules inside the establishment based on its size to limit the number of people inside and/or use impermeable barriers between service tables to protect customers from each other and employees. For outdoor seating, maintain physical distancing standards outlined above.
  • Limit the number of patrons at a single table to a household unit or patrons who have asked to be seated together. People in the same party seated at the same table do not have to be six feet apart. All members of the party must be present before seating and hosts must bring the entire party to the table at one time.
  • Limit the number of employees serving individual parties, in compliance with wage and hour regulations.
  • Face coverings are strongly encouraged for all employees, however, they are required for any employee (e.g., server, manager, busser, food runner, etc.) who must be within six feet of customers. All restaurant workers should minimize the amount of time spent within six feet of guests.
  • Close breakrooms, use barriers, or increase distance between tables/chairs to separate workers and discourage congregating during breaks. Where possible, create outdoor break areas with shade covers and seating that ensures physical distancing.
  • Reconfigure kitchens to maintain physical distancing in those areas where practical and if not practical staggers shifts if possible to do work ahead of time.
  • Discourage food preparation employees from changing or entering others’ work stations during shifts.
  • Discourage employees from congregating in high traffic areas such as bathrooms, hallways, bar areas, reservation and credit card terminals, etc.
  • Establish directional hallways and passageways for foot traffic, if possible, to eliminate employees from passing by one another.
  • Require employees to avoid handshakes and similar greetings that break physical distance.
  • Eliminate person-to-person contact for delivery of goods whenever possible. Designate drop-off locations to receive deliveries away from high traffic areas. Maintain physical distance of at least six feet with delivery drivers.
  • Guests should enter through doors that are propped open or automated, if possible. Hand sanitizer should be available for guests who must touch door handles.
  • Implement peak period queueing procedures, including a host to remind guests to queue with at least six feet of distance between parties outside or in waiting areas.
  • Employees should not open the doors of cars or taxis.
  • Takeout food items should be made available using contactless pick-up and delivery protocols.
  • Avoid touching others’ pens and clipboards. If possible, install transfer- aiding materials, such as shelving and bulletin boards, to reduce person- to-person hand-offs.

COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Considerations for Restaurants

  • Display a set of clearly visible rules for customers and restaurant personnel at the restaurant entrance(s) that are to be a condition of entry. The rules could include instructions to use hand sanitizer, maintain physical distance from other customers, avoid unnecessary touching of restaurant surfaces, contact information for the local health department, and changes to restaurant services. Whenever possible, the rules should be available digitally, include pictograms, and included on/with menus.
  • Guests and visitors should be screened for symptoms upon arrival, asked to use hand sanitizer, and to bring and wear a face covering when not eating or drinking. Appropriate signage should also be prominently displayed outlining proper face covering usage and current physical distancing practices in use at all entrances and throughout the property.
  • Licensed restaurants may sell “to-go” alcoholic beverages, prepared drinks, and pre-mixed cocktails provided they are sold and delivered to customers in conjunction with the sale and delivery of a meal/meals.

Download the PDF version: COVID Guidance Dine In Restaurants.pdf