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Restarting operations in the restaurant industry

Restarting operations in the restaurant industry

Our planning guide can be helpful as you look to reopen or expand restaurant operations. Remember to always adhere to federal, state, and local requirements, CDC guidelines, and recommendations of in-house counsel.

Due to the rapidly evolving nature of exposure, we recommend that your organization appoints a manager to coordinate efforts for COVID-19 response.

Reopening considerations


  • Follow CDC, state, and local health department guidelines for current building occupancy and physical distancing requirements.
  • Keep websites and social media up to date with information including the right to refuse service to anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and those who are not following appropriate physical distancing guidelines.
  • Reinforce communications by posting signs at entrances notifying customers of the following:
    • Not to enter if they feel sick.
    • Etiquette surrounding coughing and sneezing.
    • Proper hand-washing hygiene.
    • Use of face coverings in accordance with state and local public health recommendations.
  • Promote pickup and delivery options.
  • Consider reopening with a “reservations only” policy limiting the number of patrons in the restaurant, and group size.
  • Encourage outdoor dining, and open doors and windows if possible.
  • Follow CDC guidelines for approved cleaning products and cleaning and disinfecting techniques.
  • Designate a floor team to clean/sanitize tables, booths, menus, and chairs after each use.
  • Designate a floor team to conduct restroom checks, and to wipe down toilet handles, push points on doors, sink handles, hand dryers, paper towel dispensers, and other frequently touched surfaces.
  • Analyze and modify operations as needed, for example:
    • Eliminate self-service beverage stations and buffet lines.
    • Limit dining room capacity to allow for better social distancing.
    • Space tables farther apart or seat every other table to allow for more distance between seated customers.
    • Remove all condiments from tables and provide what is needed upon request only.
    • Increase frequency of restroom cleaning and disinfecting of all surfaces.
    • Consider eliminating or limiting bar area serviceEliminate live music.
  • Consider installing Plexiglass along bar to provide barrier between bartenders and guests.
  • Encourage guests to use a smartphone menu app and post menu signage to limit at-table menu usage.

Employee safety

  • Equip staff with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) based on job tasks and follow state and local public health recommendations regarding the use of face coverings. Ensure staff is properly trained on changes to cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
  • Encourage employees who feel sick to stay home.
  • Require servers to wash/sanitize hands after touching guests’ plates and utensils.
  • If plastic gloves are required, ensure they are changed often, especially if they touch a contaminated surface or object.
  • When handling paper currency and coins:
    • Do not touch face afterward.
    • Require cash to be placed directly on counter.
    • Wipe counter between each customer at checkout.

Customer safety

  • Provide hand sanitizer at host/check-in station.
  • Separate tables and seating in common areas as recommended by the CDC or state/local guidelines.
  • Place hand sanitizer at entrances and exits, as well as guest tables.
  • Increase cleaning and disinfecting in high-touch areas, such as restrooms, checkout counters, common areas, handrails, etc.
  • Post guidelines and instructions to help enforce physical distancing, and proper hygienic practices for hand washing.
  • Encourage customers to use touchless payment options when available.


It is important to communicate to employees and guests about the steps you are taking to help keep them safe. Capture and document your programs and efforts to keep everyone safe for future reference.

Additional resources

Your safety and well-being are our primary concern. These suggestions are general in nature, so please ensure that any activities you contemplate comply with all federal, state, and local COVID-19 orders impacting your facilities or operations as well as CDC guidelines for social distancing, hygiene, and other recommended best practices.

Our risk control services are advisory only. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer safety activities, implementing any recommended corrective measures, or identifying all potential hazards. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations. Please refer to the appropriate government authority for interpretation or clarification.

This website is general in nature, and is provided as a courtesy to you. Information is accurate to the best of Liberty Mutual’s knowledge, but companies and individuals should not rely on it to prevent and mitigate all risks as an explanation of coverage or benefits under an insurance policy. Consult your professional advisor regarding your particular facts and circumstance. By citing external authorities or linking to other websites, Liberty Mutual is not endorsing them.