The Dictionannaire de Trévoux, written in 1771, defines the restaurant as “an establishment specializing in the sale of restorative foods” many of which were further described by Brillat-Savarin as chocolate, red meat, and consommé. Over the past twenty-five years I have tried to show my students the power that a restaurant has in our society. The original restaurants in, Pre-French Revolution Europe ,were places that sold restorative broths; from which we have the word Restaurant. It is a place where people are “restored.” Think about the power that restaurants have had throughout history in brightening the customers ’ day. This purpose is even more important today in the midst of the COVID 19 crisis.
Based upon the historic context, the science of the day, and the belief that one day life will become better, I have some suggestions on best practices to help restauranteurs transition operations to help people during this time.
According to the National Institute of Health the novel virus COVID 19 can remain on surfaces like stainless steel and plastic for an extended period of time. Since COVID -19 is a human- to- human transfer virus restaurants should take extraordinary care concerning how they interact with food, preparation, employees, and the transfer of that food to the customer. The Food and Drug Administration has published clear guidance to address these concerns.
1. Scrub areas with hot soapy water to breakdown the viral transfer.
2. Properly sanitize the areas using EPA sanitizing products in the correct concentration for the recommended time.
3. Avoid cross contamination from the food handler by use a mask of some type, proper hair coverings, and disposable gloves.
4. Prevent cross contamination and food handling mistakes by following the FDA food code.
5. Follow HAACP guidance plan as detailed in the 2017 FDA Food Code Revision for specific guidance on controlling the time and temperature of safe food.
So how does a restaurant transition in this context? Here are my recommendations for foods that are ready to eat.
1. Produce food that has been cooked to above 165°, deliver it above 135°, or properly chill and store it for later, providing directions on how to reheat and to what temperature internal temperature.
2. Ensure that human contact has not occurred once the product has been packaged. Like the Zero Contact guarantee that is being marketed by Dominos Pizza. This is important in the use of credit and debit cards, so pivot to wireless transactions. Change the pickup model to curbside, and transact outside of your venture.
3. Concerns have been raised by the WHO in the safe supply of products produced or grown abroad. Therefore, source foods that you can validate the chain of custody, and the assurance of quality. Supply chains will be disrupted in this crisis. Make sure that your venture can adapt with the times. What if King Crab goes to $80 a pound, simple take it off the menu.
4. Move to a commissary model of operation and deliver food direct to consumer. Food trucks have the ability to produce, serve and deliver foods in new ways. Perhaps instead of a twelve-item menu offer meal that can be served for multiple days; lasagnas for instance. Consider themed menus for each night of the week, Taco Tuesday kits, BBQ with Sides. Use an ethical Go To Market plan to inform neighborhood Home Owner Associations or Community Centers on how your venture can help their residents. This could include advertising on their website for delivery to a central location and establishing social distance pickup processes. For example- drive by tables that the food can be placed upon. Restaurants can also become meal prep services like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron and offer curbside pickup using the same social distance pickup processes.
5. Take your venture outdoors. Since most dining rooms are closed I would suggest setting up your dining room outdoors, using physical distancing between tables. Deliver the food in ready to go containers and have the customer purchase it through an app. This way staff has time to clean and disinfect the tables and chairs when guests are done.
In my opinion restaurants and food trucks have an opportunity to build their brand beyond the confines their establishment. This is the time to transform the way customers interact with the food service industry by specializing in sale of restorative foods for both the body as well as the soul.
(Ed) J. Lanuzza, A. Tiess
4/28/22 Update- Pandemic