Since Governor John Bel Edwards announced the statewide dining restrictions effective March 17 until at least April 13, everything has changed for the local restaurant scene. Bustling restaurants once filled with hungry customers are now restricted to carry-out and delivery orders only. For some businesses, the quick transition has been difficult. But nonetheless, they’re rolling with the punches and pivoting to curbside pick-up, take-out and delivery.
With the quick spread of COVID-19 across the state, some are still wondering how safe it is to eat meals prepared at local restaurants. The FDA says, “Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.” *insert praise hands*
But because it is possible that the virus can survive on surfaces, the FDA’s urging those preparing meals to follow its four key steps: clean, separate, cook and chill. We spoke with some local restaurants and coffee shops to find out what steps they’re taking to maintain the safety and health of their customers.
Cleaning all surfaces, utensils and shared objects
COVID-19 can survive on surfaces and objects. To prevent its spread, the CDC recommends routine cleaning of all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops and doorknobs.
“We sanitize and disinfect everything that is touched throughout the day with products that have been shown to kill the virus,” Light House Coffee co-owner Steve Elworth says. “And utilizing mobile ordering … allows minimal physical contact.”
At White Star Market, select vendors are offering curbside pickup in the parking lot to keep customers out of the facility.
“We have continued standard hand washing and food safety practices,” ThaiHey Thaifood co-owner Nathan Greene says. “In addition, we only meet our customers in the parking lot. We wear gloves during the transaction, and we wipe the iPad surface following every customer signature.”
Using apps to limit contact
Many food shops have relied on apps like Waitr, DoorDash and Uber Eats to have their food delivered.
“We can no longer have people gathering and sitting in our shop, which is one of the things people love about Light House. But people are still coming for coffee and toasts,” Elworth says. “We are serving customers in our shop for takeout orders. We utilize Waitr for delivery and an app called Cloosiv where people can order and pay over the phone and pick it up in the shop. We’re trying to find various ways to help people get their Light House fix.”
Other businesses like The Dish at White Star Market have created their own app for customers to order directly from the restaurant.
“We are lucky we just set up an app for pick-up orders, and it has been such a blessing to use,” The Dish co-owner Jessica Kisling says. “We have always kept up with hygiene practices, but we are ensuring employees wash hands, use gloves, etc., to the highest standards. We have had to pare down the schedule to a skeleton crew to accommodate the change to curbside pick up/delivery only.”
This simple but effective practice is one of the most important to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The FDA recommends washing your hands by scrubbing the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
“We hand the order directly to the customer, say thank you, and walk back to the store immediately washing our hands and following with hand sanitizer,” Kisling at The Dish says.
And of course, if workers have any symptoms, they are asked to stay at home.