While the majority of businesses, large and small, have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants and bars in particular have suffered greatly. Dining or drinking indoors was and is still considered a risk by many Americans due to close proximity with maskless individuals from varying households. The focus is on restaurant indoor air quality for reopening plans that benefits customers, employees and business alike. According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), since the start of the pandemic …
- Nearly 3 million restaurant employees have been laid off
- The industry lost $240 billion in revenue in 2020
- Approximately 110,000 restaurants have closed permanently or for the long-term
The National Restaurant Association on Reopening
The NRA created a 10-page COVID-19 guide to reopening indoor restaurant buildings. With the help of the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Environmental Protection Agency, the NRA has established a myriad of recommendations to protect employees and customers alike. Below are several of the new guidelines.
- Salad bars and buffets must be equipped with sneeze guards.
- Utensils and reusable menus must be washed and sanitized frequently.
- Paper menus and single-use items must be discarded after each use.
- Hand sanitizer should be readily available for customers.
- All common touch areas (e.g. tabletops and condiments) should be cleaned and sanitized between every seating.
- Employee temperature checks are subject to the discretion of the employer.
- Employers should follow local and state face mask requirements.
As a business owner, the above suggestions are all important steps to take to create safe indoor dining spaces. And as customers, seeing the aforementioned recommendations at restaurants likely provides peace of mind. But there is one more crucial component to ensuring healthier indoor spaces for all. Here’s how to focus on improving indoor air quality.
Why is IAQ Important for Restaurants?
In order for restaurants to achieve a clean bill of health, they must meet certain sanitation requirements. Maintaining a healthy restaurant includes monitoring indoor air quality. If your restaurant’s indoor air quality is poor, it can cause a host of health issues for employees and customers. This can lead to poor reviews and low employee retention rates. Monitoring indoor air quality is particularly paramount as restaurants move to reopen in 2021.
The pandemic has highlighted the world of indoor air quality and healthy buildings. The popularity of these topics will likely continue. Customers and staff want to know that a business or employer was willing to take that extra measure to provide a safer experience. Investing in IAQ today aids reopening plans and future business.
How to Assess Restaurant Air Quality
Assess your restaurant’s air quality by checking temperature and humidity levels to ensure they are ideal. Indoor humidity should fall within the 40% to 60% range in order to maintain a healthy and comfortable atmosphere. Also consider adding an in-duct indoor air quality monitor to notice air quality trends and monitor in real-time. Or, hire an experienced local IAQ expert to evaluate your business space and suggest the best personalised IAQ recommendations.
Improving Ventilation in Your Restaurant
If you receive complaints from employees or customers because they are experiencing cold-like symptoms (e.g., headache, itchiness, sore throat) then it is highly likely that the air quality in your restaurant is poor. It is important to address this issue immediately by improving the ventilation in your restaurant. Ventilation upgrades are also a popular reopening choice among hospitality businesses.
There are a multitude of steps that you can take to ensure that your restaurant is properly ventilated at all times.
- Regularly change the air filters throughout your establishment. This will prevent dust and debris from circulating.
- Ensure that your HVAC system is inspected and maintained on an annual basis.
- Invest in VOC-free cleaning products as they reduce chemical pollution.
- Clean equipment and surfaces to prevent a buildup of dust and debris from entering the HVAC system.
- Ensure that grills, stoves and ovens are equipped with hoods and fans that ventilate outdoors.
- Invest in a whole-building mechanical ventilation system.
- Utilize natural ventilation when appropriate by opening windows and doors.
Reopen With Confidence
In the wake of COVID-19 and with reopening statuses growing in many states, it is important that restaurant owners feel confident in their ability to protect employees and customers. The aforementioned tips are an excellent way to assess air quality in your restaurant and improve ventilation.