My name is Richard Bagdonas. I have been in the healthcare industry for seventeen years and the hospitality industry for over a decade. Twenty years ago I founded a non-profit food delivery network called Operation Turkey which fed 15% of the US homeless population last year. My background in logistics, hospitality, and healthcare culminate in this article.
The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic combined with third-party restaurant delivery apps has created a huge problem for food safety within the restaurant industry. When we combine that with a contractor network of delivery personnel, we have created a virus transmission network on top of a complicated logistics network.
An infected individual’s cough can produce up to 3,000 aerosol droplets containing the virus. These particles can transmit to other people, their clothing, and many surfaces like chairs, tables, doors, counters, and packaging.
Smaller particles will remain in the air which can transmit directly into the eyes, nose, or mouth. Evidence exists that viruses remain in fecal material. If anyone does not wash their hands thoroughly after using the restroom, we can see mass contamination requiring a stoppage of work until the restaurant is disinfected.
Testing is key. Please continue to seek tests for your personnel and remove them from work if they test positive. If there is a positive test of an individual in your restaurant, please contact a company to disinfect your restaurant.
During the period where testing is unavailable, please keep a log of each employee’s health including the following checked daily:
- Temperature (anything under 99 is ok, but look for trends)
- Coughing (more than 3 coughs per hour is cause for concern)
- Sneezing (one sneeze a day is the maximum)
- GI issues (stop the employee’s work if they start having diarrhea)
- Aches and pains (these are leading indicators of the virus)
- Queasiness (this is a leading indicator of an issue)
If an employee exhibits the makings of a fever, aches and pains, GI issues, or excessive coughing or sneezing, send them home immediately. Have them contact their doctor and ask for a test. If they test positive for COVID-19, have everyone stop work and disinfect the entire kitchen, packaging area, and delivery area.
The following standard operating procedures should be considered by restaurants and delivery personnel. There are six main categories of people referenced in this article. They include dishwashers, cooks, expediters, packagers, servers, and delivery drivers.
A dishwasher is anyone who processes cooking utensils and vessels in the kitchen. Dishwashers are a very large transmission vector and it is recommended they use forearm-length gloves and a face shield.
Consider a cook as anyone in the kitchen that has contact with raw or cooked food except the dish-washing staff. Cold line cooks are at a higher risk of transmitting a virus than those on the hot line because of the prominent use of ventilation hoods on hot lines.
Cold line cooks must use a face mask and face shield along with gloves.
Hot line cooks must use a face shield along with gloves.
Hot and cold line cooks must place the items in the to-go containers without touching the sides of the pots, pans, or other cooking vessels. Take great care in maintaining a minimum two-inch gap between your cooking vessel and the food in the container.
A restaurant expediter is the one who manages orders as they come out of the kitchen. There is a large vector for transmission as the expediter is in contact with the kitchen staff and the servers.
The expediter must use gloves and a face mask or face shield to prevent the transmission of bodily fluids in aerosol form.
The restaurant expediter must ensure that the personnel cooking food in the kitchen and the people packaging food in the packaging area are adhering to their respective protocols.
A packager is someone who receives the food from the cooks and marries the order with the final packaging. This person has a high probability for transmitting a virus and must use gloves and a face mask or face shield.
The packager should include one disposable disinfectant wipe for each cover inside the bag. This person must use gloves and a face mask or face shield to prevent the transmission of bodily fluids in aerosol form.
The packager’s job is to finalize and confirm the packaging by placing a tamper-evident security sticker on the bag or box. The sticker is a visual indicator to the consumer if the bag has been tampered with by any parties in the delivery network prior to consumption.
The packager will store the orders in a clean area and pass the orders to the server.
Servers are still important in a delivery-only model. You will just require fewer of them. In this revised role, they are the people in your restaurant who move the packaged orders to the delivery drivers in the pickup area. They are the last link in the safety chain from your restaurant’s kitchen to the consumer’s mouth. Their most common vector for transmission is with an order’s bag.
Servers must verify that the security seal is in place and if they see it has been damaged, the order must go back to packaging.
Servers must use gloves and change them once per hour, after using the restroom, or if they are dirtied in another manner. They must also use a face mask or face shield to prevent bodily fluids in aerosol form.
The servers must maintain a sanitary path through the restaurant to hand the food to the delivery drivers.
Delivery drivers have several vectors for virus transmission. It begins when the driver opens the front door of the restaurant. The outside door handle may contain the virus and we have to assume that it does.
It is at this point that we have to consider the driver’s hands the target vector. The recommendation is to use tissues or another disposable material when touching door handles.
About 74% of the time, delivery drivers touch a plastic bag from the restaurant. The plastic used in the bags are great carriers for disease. Drivers should wipe their hands with a disinfectant or pick up the bag with gloves or a tissue.
Drivers must be mindful of their vehicle’s door handles as well. That is why it is recommended to leverage the vehicle remote controls to open the rear tailgate or trunk of a vehicle without touching the vehicle. The driver should place the bag in a secured area, furthest away from any passengers.
When the driver reaches their destination the same approach is recommended. They should use their remote control to open the rear tailgate or trunk of their vehicle. A quick spray of disinfectant or a wipe from a disinfectant towelette is recommended prior to picking up the packaged order.
It is possible to maintain a safe and secure food network that includes third-party application companies, restaurants, and contract delivery drivers. If you have any questions or would like to chat with me further, please DM me on Twitter at @richardbagdonas.
You may also consider connecting with me on LinkedIn.