What is Safe? Some Common Sense Guidelines for Re-Opening

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Across America restaurants and retail businesses are beginning to reopen or expand operations.  While we want to support these businesses, many people are leery of going out again.  You can make choices to protect yourself by making good decisions on which restaurants or businesses to visit right now.

While each state may have their own guidelines, here are some basic practices that you can look for when selecting a business to patronize:

  • Signs inside and outside the business that offer guidelines for safety.
  • Sanitizer available for both staff and guests to use.
  • Special times/hours for high risk guests
  • Offer making appointments, call-ahead seating, on-line ticket orders, or reservations to avoid guests waiting or shopping with large numbers.
  • Taking physical distancing seriously with markings on the floor to show 6’ distances.
  • Installed partitions or barriers between staff members/cashiers and guests
  • High-touch areas are cleaned/disinfected frequently. This includes cash registers and credit card areas, interactive screens, doors, handles, and stair railings.
  • Are restrooms checked/cleaned/sanitized frequently or is sanitizer/disinfectant and paper towels available for guest to do this themselves?
  • Can staff members answer your questions about what they are doing to keep you safe? You might want to ask if they have an employee health policy or daily health screening.

Here are some things to watch for in particularly in restaurants...

  • Watch to see if the staff is cleaning and sanitizing the table tops after a guest leaves. Be aware that some sanitizers need “standing time” to work appropriately.
  • Staff should be wearing cloth face coverings and guests should be encouraged to wear face coverings as appropriate.
  • Disposable items such as dishes, silverware and napkins used as appropriate
  • Are tables and chairs arranged so guests are at least 6 feet apart when seated?
  • Staff should maintain social distancing between each other and guests.
  • Condiments bottles such as salt, pepper, ketchup, and mustard should not be on tables in restaurants and food service. Single-use packets or small disposable containers are recommended. If condiment bottles are used, they should be cleaned/disinfected between customers.
  • Look for alternatives to printed menus. Some restaurants may have them on their website or on a menu board or chalk board that you don’t touch.  If they do hand you a menu, it should be disposable and used only once by you or completely sanitized between customers.
  • If the restaurant or business has a waiting area for guests or for those waiting for take-out orders have they appropriately addressed social distancing? This area could be outside the business or in your car.

All businesses do not need to have all of these precautions and procedures in place and in some locations they are recommendations and not requirements. Also remember that all businesses may not be doing these practices perfectly, but trying is better than not and an attempt shows that they are committed to protecting their customers' health from the spread of COVID-19 .

Visit the CDC and your state and local health department websites for specific recommendations and changes in your area. You, the consumer, need to make the best decision for yourself and your family based on your health and your personal situations.

You can also do your part as guest or customer

  • Wear a mask
  • Work to keep 6 feet away from others at all times
  • Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer when possible

Remember, this is new for business and their staff, too.  Be patient. Be kind. Be appreciative. Be safe.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University


  1. CDC Recommendations for Restaurants: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/business-employers/bars-restaurants.html
  2. CDC Recommendations for Businesses and Employers: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html
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