CONSIDERATIONS WHEN OPENING YOUR RESTAURANT

With the focus for garden centres and farm shop now moving towards reopening of their restaurants and cafes, in this document there are compliance suggestions to consider when planning for reopening  safely during COVID-19.

The following considerations are to support garden centre and farm shop restaurant employers and employees as part of their strategic plans for re-opening their restaurants.  There are other areas for restaurants to consider additional to these which restaurants will need to identify within their own business model.

The overall final decision for actions to take prior opening and the accountability and responsibility for any actions taken in a restaurant/café lie with the garden centre/farm shop restaurant.

The guidance was created on 15th June 2020, however ongoing government guidance may be updated and regularly reviewing updates on the government websites are advised.  The food standards agency has created a checklist to support food businesses in reopening safely during COVID-19 after a period of inaction and this can also be seen here.

I: Preparing for Re-opening

After a period of closure which we have seen since March 2020, restaurants will require to implement extra checks alongside their standards daily opening checks. Just as was the case in the retail areas, these will support businesses in making sure that they can restart safely.

Restaurants and Cafes will need to maintain their everyday basic hygiene standards and also identify and take action in areas where greater attention will be required.

A: Check your Local Authority is informed of current food activities 

  • Notify your Local Authority of your intention to restart trading from your restaurant operation, or for any change to the business activities which you are registered for. This includes any thoughts for change of use or the introduction of any new delivery or takeaway service, plus to review any licences that may be applicable.

B: Review and update your Food Safety Management System for any new procedures

Garden Centre and Farm Shop restaurants need to review their ‘Food Safety Management Systems’ enabling them to identify risks. This should be recorded in their compliance documentation, often referred to as Safer food, Better Business pack (SFBB), or Safe Catering (Northern Ireland) or Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan.   

This review is advised as essential and a major factor in planning for the future.  Businesses should consider all changes to their processes and services affected by to COVID-19. This could include changes across processes and layout, such as staff scheduling, kitchen layout, seating layout,  customer interactions and any required control measures. 

When re-opening restaurants should review their usual start-up procedures following any shut-down.  This is so they can consider whether any additional procedures are needed and should take into account the length of time your business has not been in operation. This review should also consider the cleaning requirements for your business, and have an assessment of any pest control requirements following the period of closure. 

  • You should consider any risks to staff, customer or any other visitor which may have been introduced by changes to new or updated procedures
  • You should consider any risks to food safety which may have been introduced by changes to new or updated procedures.
  • Manage risks of cross-contamination between raw and ready-to-eat foods. 
  • Store food packaging hygienically and in line with government advice on handling items. This includes checking that the hygiene and integrity of any packaging that has been stored through a period of closure has been maintained and dispose of unsuitable packaging. 
  • Review and also document new procedures in relation to re-opening.  eg.  you decide to introduce a takeaway pudding option to create quicker turnover of seats, then you need to consider allergen management and communication, cook-chill-reheat processes and communication, temperature control processes awaiting collection or during delivery.
  • Review the government advice on use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) outside of medical and care settings.
  • If your business requires staff to wear PPE, check you have adequate stocks available.
  • Review any PPE laundering procedures, where appropriate, to ensure PPE worn by staff can be safely changed and cleaned regularly. 
  • Ensure food packaging is of food grade, and appropriate for the purpose and food type.
  • Check staff are ‘fit for work’ in line with social distancing and covid-19 government advice,  and wearing clean work clothes and PPE where identified. 
  • Consider adjustments to fitness for work procedures to take account of COVID-19 symptoms in line with government advice.
  • Ensure any changes to procedures are communicated to staff and training is provided where appropriate, including training of any new staff.

C: Check registered waste carrier services

  • Ensure that your registered waste carrier services are running and available as required, to ensure there is no build-up of waste on site.

D: Risk Assessments

In line with wider government advice, you should make sure that the risk assessment for your restaurant addresses all risks including the risks of COVID-19. These should be completed by a ‘competent person’.  For further advice on what is required when completing risk assessments contact Andrew Burton at Malcolm Scott Consultants.

The government also supply ongoing and updated advice on its government social distancing guidance which can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19.  This will enable businesses to have a resource to inform their decisions and control measures.  You must:

  • document any changes you make 
  • document the start-up checks you undertake
  • Ensure any changes to procedures are communicated to staff and training is provided where appropriate, including training of any new staff.

E: Food safety

For any restaurant offering a takeaway or delivery service the food standards agency have more information on allergen and hygiene requirements at https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/adapting-restaurants-and-food-businesses-for-takeaway-and-food-delivery-during-covid-19

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health have published further guidance at https://www.cieh.org/media/4070/covid-19-food-delivery-and-takeaway-guidance.pdf

Thorough cleaning of premises and equipment

You should carry out a thorough clean of your restaurant, kitchen, store rooms and equipment before re-starting operations. You should consider processes and appropriate methods to verify the effectiveness of your cleaning, and decide whether a professional deep clean is needed. 

It is important to check all food preparation areas, (Front and Back of House) are clean and disinfected (this includes work surfaces, under equipment, equipment, doors and utensils).  To do this you should consider:

  • Carrying out a full site assessment to determine if you should undertake a thorough clean in-house or if a professional deep clean company is needed. 
  • Source the correct and suitable cleaning and disinfection consumables and check your existing stocks are within their use-by date. Any cleaning products made-up or diluted before any closure should be disposed of as their effectiveness reduces over time.
  • Assess if staff need re-training on dilution rates and cleaning procedures and ensure new staff are trained.
  • Increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfection, and update cleaning process paperwork, paying particular attention to shared equipment and high through-put and touch areas.

The Food Standards Agency Safer food, better business pack provides advice on cleaning in specific sectors. Our E.coli cross-contamination guidance also offers a comprehensive chapter on cleaning and disinfecting.

F: Cleaning and disinfection

To comply with the food standards agencies guidelines and the general rules for food hygiene, you are required to have in place your own cleaning, disinfection and hygiene procedures as part of your Food Safety Management System.   Businesses should ensure this is in place in their restaurants.

Any chemicals used in food establishments to clean and disinfect food contact surfaces and equipment must be approved as food safe as you should discuss this with your supplier. You are advised to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for preparation and  for use, paying particular attention to contact times.? This supports understanding for both underuse of chemicals or using too much.  Discussing supply of chemicals which are  needed to clean bacteria and viruses with your chemical supplier, who should also supply COSHH details is advised.  They may also support with advice or training for use of any chemicals they supply.  The?Food Standards agency Safer food, better business (SFBB) for Caterers pack (Safe Catering  guide for Northern Ireland),?advises food businesses to use disinfectants and sanitisers that meet BS EN standards.

You should seek approved, food-safe alternatives with equivalent and effective properties if your regular cleaning and disinfecting products are not available or if your processes do not support this fully.

G: Availability of consumables

You should check that you have adequate stocks of suitable cleaning chemicals and that they are in-date. This also applies to other essential consumable items such as disposable gloves.

Also, restaurants should review their stocks of disposable (ideally sustainable products), especially if the business model supports less use of permanent cutlery and plates and more use of disposable utensils, cups and plates as part of their Covid-19 plans.

You should review your restaurant food safety processes for accepting your customers’ reusable equipment, such as refillable coffee cups or containers. It is the garden centre/farm shop restaurant business’s decision as to whether they can continue to accommodate this, although taking in to account Covid-19 guidance handling items brought in by customer may not be advisable. The restaurant will need a procedure to minimise contact of items between staff and customers. This should reduce the potential risk to your staff, equipment and premises from surface contamination.

You can do this by:

  • making sure staff do not touch the customer’s equipment, such as refillable hot drink cups or baby bottles.
  • asking staff to wash the container and their hands in hot soapy water. It should be dried before using with your equipment.

If you are deciding not to or are unable to accommodate reusable customer containers, you should explain to customers that you are unable to use their equipment at this time.

When you have decided on the best option for your business, you should record this in your food safety management system and your COVID-19 risk assessment. Staff should be trained in any changes to the procedure. 

H: Stock control

Food businesses should ensure that any packaged goods, ingredients or raw materials that have passed their use-by date are disposed of appropriately. You should also inspect stocks for damage and/or signs of pest-infestation.

Businesses should also check temperature control records if available and they should not use ingredients or raw materials where the integrity of packaging is not intact or where you are not content that temperature control has been maintained.  

I: Availability of raw materials and ingredients

You should check that you can obtain your usual stock range for raw materials and ingredients so that your product specifications and allergen controls can be met. Ensure any new suppliers you source or contractors you use meet your requirements, especially in relation to allergen management.

J: Allergen management

You should check that labelling is still available for allergens and that your allergen matrices are up to date. If your suppliers or ingredients have changed, you will need to review your processes and communication.  If you need support on allergy management businesses could contact their local environmental health department.

Check your existing stocks have not been cross-contaminated during closedown period.

K: Relabelling

If your restaurant had decided to freeze products during closure you should check labelling. Restaurants should ensure that they are able to use the food safely, taking into consideration the product durability once defrosted and allergen management.

L: Staff training

By law, food business operators must ensure that food handlers receive the appropriate supervision and training in food hygiene. This should be in line with the area they work in and will enable them to handle food in the safest way and this should be reviewed.

You should reconsider the training needs for your staff, including any changes such as those made to any procedures, recipes and other hygiene measures. This includes social distancing and customer service training in support of dealing with customers who need help with new processes and government guidelines. 

M: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in restaurants can be for both the protection of workers and customers.  The current Covid-19 situation should not change these requirements and your risk assessment should highlight PPE requirements throughout the restaurant in support of food management and COVID-19 risk management.

You should continue to ensure that the use of PPE is as set out in your Food Safety Management System (FSMS), and in line with your current Health & Safety at Work policies.

The food standards agency gives more advice on PPE on their website, including specific information on glove use, face masks and face coverings.

N: Social distancing

It will not always be possible to keep a distance of 2 metres. In these circumstances both employers and employees must do everything they reasonably can to reduce risk and this should be identified in the risk assessments.

Businesses will need to follow Government guidance on how to implement social distancing at work and steps they can take to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.

O: Food hygiene ratings

Restaurants and Cafes will receive a new rating when the next planned inspection is carried out by your local authority.  If you feel you wanted to do receive one of these earlier to communicate to your customers that you are safe and compliant, you can request a re-visit to get a new rating when all the necessary hygiene improvements identified at the most recent inspection have been made by contacting your local environmental health department.

P: Alcohol Licence

Restaurants and Cafes will need to check their alcohol licence and music licence are up to date and correct.  This is especially relevant if seating areas have increased outside of the existing licenced area.

II: Restaurant Site checks

Equipment and Materials checks

Check handwashing and cleaning materials’ availability (this includes soap, sanitiser and paper towels)

  • Make sure all consumables are within their dates for use.
  • Obtain enough of your regular cleaning consumables such as soap, sanitiser and paper towels. Provide suitable alternatives if your regular products are unavailable or if they need updating after advice given by your supplier.
  • Consider updating your staff training in line with government advice that staff should wash their hands more frequently than usual and increase posters in the relevant places to highlight hand washing expectations.

Check hot and cold running water is available at all sinks and hand wash basins.

  • Make sure adequate hand-washing stations are provided at all appropriate points throughout the restaurant, back of house and front of house.
  • Consider providing hand sanitiser stations or in specific locations in addition to hand-washing facilities at appropriate locations.

Check your fridges, chilled display equipment and freezers are working properly

Check your other equipment (e.g. oven) is working properly

  • Thoroughly clean all equipment before restarting and restocking using correct cleaning equipment and chemicals
  • Inspect equipment for maintenance requirements, verify all temperatures and re-calibrate where necessary for time or temperature.
  • Flush through taps and other equipment with water systems (e.g. bain marie). 
  • Consider Legionella risks and take action in line with the government Legionella guidance from the Health and Safety Executive to reduce risks. 
  • Check probe thermometers are working properly, and probe wipes are available.  Consider whether probe thermometers need to be recalibrated.
  • Run dishwashers and glasswashers empty on hot cycle before use.

Ingredient and product checks

Check raw materials and ingredients

  • Check for any damage to packaging which might affect safety of food or result in loss of allergen information.
  • Check for any evidence of temperature abuse or changes in temperature which would have moved food into risk and which may have meant food could be unsafe. Refer to temperature control records where available.
  • Check the use-by and best before dates on existing stock. Ensure that storage has been in-line with your processes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • For foods frozen by the restaurant when closed, check that labelling and records are sufficient to allow the safe use of the food.
  • Check that the time/length of storage is in-line with your own processes and assessment at point of freezing.
  • Check that you can obtain your usual raw materials and ingredients so that your product specifications can be met. 
  • Ensure that any new suppliers meet your restaurant requirements. 

Check allergen information is accurate and available for all products

  • Review your allergen management system, allergen matrices and menus to account for changes of supplier and any new raw materials or products.
  • If implemented or planned to implement, review any new takeaway or delivery services to ensure risk of allergen cross-contamination is managed and reheating information is supplied (both online and with the product).
  • Ensure allergen information is available to customers at time of ordering and at delivery of food.

Check your SFBB or HACCP documentation is accurate and available for all products

  • As highlighted in section e of the ‘preparing to open section’ on page 4, ensure your SFBB or HACCP documentation is accurate and available for all products.  Review your processes and documentation to account for changes of supplier and any new raw materials or products.

Check Pest Control is up to date and there are no signs of activity

  • Ensure pest control visits are up to date and call pest control company out to review your restaurant if required.

III: Social Distancing Measures

Employee, public, contractor and other visitor safety

  • Review the latest update for government advice on social distancing in the workplace.  As of 15th June 2020, businesses should provide where possible 2 metre social distancing for ‘Social distancing at work’ and ‘food preparation’.  This is under review and an update is expected week commencing 22nd June.
  • Consider steps to minimise staff-customer interactions.
  • Consider how you will communicate with staff, customers and other visitors to the restaurant.  
  • Identify staff at higher risk and follow government guidelines.
  • Review structure of working areas, schedules and cohort working teams to lower staff mixing.
  • Increase ventilation where possible. You should assess the possibility to do this without introducing new risks or hazards to food safety and hygiene.
  • Kitchen Layout should be reviewed and the Steps that will usually be needed are:
    • Following government guidance on managing food preparation and food service areas at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-food-businesses/guidance-for-food-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19
    • Allowing kitchen access to as few people as possible.
    • Minimising interaction between kitchen staff and other workers, including when on breaks.
    • Putting teams into shifts to restrict the number of workers interacting with each other. Eg.  cakes could be baked, or salads prepped out of opening hours
    • In line with government guidance for social distancing, spacing workstations apart as much as possible, recognising the difficulty of moving equipment such as sinks, hobs and ovens. Consider cleanable panels to separate workstations in larger kitchens.
    • Providing floor marking to signal distances in line with government guidance for social distancing.
    • Using ‘one way’ traffic flows to minimise contact.
    • Minimising access to walk-in pantries, fridges and freezers, for example, with only one person being able to access these areas at one point in time.
    • Minimising contact at ‘handover’ points with other staff, such as when presenting food to serving staff and delivery drivers.
    • Clarify menu to ensure this is achievable in any updated working environment.
    • Consider pot wash use and sustainable disposable utensil use
    • Front of house and seating layout should be reviewed and the Steps that will usually be needed are:
    • Review of counter equipment positioning
    • Allowing behind the counter access to as few people as possible.
    • Consider communication methods from front of house to back of house eg. kitchen printer
    • Review of service processes and customer interaction to meet Covid-19 controls
    • Review of seating plans to support social distancing, including best use of table sizes and possible use of screening.  Also consider external seating use.
    • Communication with local authority for understanding of their expectations in control of risk, especially when using screening or where social distancing can’t be met at all times
    • Review of cleaning processes for tables, counters and all customer touch points
    • Refer to government guidance on social distancing, customer interaction and communication or instructions to the public.
    • Consider queuing systems, including customer greeters, virtual queues, table buzzers and pre-ordering methods.  Self-service is not advised in the current situation, however all service methods should be risk assessed.

Contractors, Suppliers and Other Visitors

  • Refer to government guidance on social distancing.
  • Review risk management controls for deliveries and visitors to ensure all staff and visitors have control methods in place for control risk levels
  • Ask contractors and suppliers to provide their risk assessments, method statements and public liability insurance for any work carried out.

IV: Signage and Customer Communication

Signage

  • Clear signage throughout the restaurant and garden centre/farm shop can provide understanding of any changes and new processes for customers and visitors.
  • Displaying the menu at the entrance and in the restaurant needs to support processes for ordering
  • Signage highlighting how the restaurant is supporting government advice and how it is Covid-19 compliant also can be used to give customers confidence in using the restaurant.  This can be used online, instore and in the restaurant.

Communication

  • Staff communication for any changes or updates to processes should be considered through:
    • Emails
    • Training
    • Telephone
    • Posters
    • Verbally
    • Sharing of updated risk assessments, ensuring they sign to say they understand them.

V: Planning permission

Many businesses have planning permission conditions which may affect what is permissible in their restaurants and these permissions should be reviewed to ensure any changes meet requirements.  These include areas such as trading hours and introduction of retail ranges.

For any planning permission enquiries contact Chris Primett at Malcolm Scott Consultants on 01905 726353 or at chrisp@malcolmscottcons.co.uk

VI: Additional considerations

Restaurants will need to review their full risk assessments and take any further action needed in preparation of opening.  Each restaurant is accountable for their own opening preparation and plans and further information and guidance should be researched to ensure all areas of the restaurant are assessed with action taken when issues are identified.

Whilst compliance and preparation is essential, the effect on processes, turnover, costs and the overall business structure should also be considered before re-opening.  Therefore it is recommended that full business reviews should be completed.  This can be done internally or using guidance from external consultants.

For further support, including reviewing turnover potential, overhead controls, menu planning, kitchen design, seating layout, space management, staff scheduling and communication, you can contact Andrew Burton at Malcolm Scott Consultants om andrewb@malcolmscottcons.co.uk or 01905 721694.