Maintaining Health and Safety During Takeaway and Curbside Pickups
Although food delivery during the pandemic has been a saving grace for restaurants, it presents health and safety challenges that need to be addressed.
- By Jennifer Dawson
- Jan 22, 2021
Approximately 60 percent of U.S. consumers order takeout or delivery once weekly, according to a report by Citizens Restaurant Finance. Delivery traffic outside restaurants has increased by 33 percent since 2012, says data from the NPD Group. Offering delivery and curbside pickups proved to be a saving grace for restaurants during 2020, and this trend is likely to continue throughout 2021. During times when businesses have been forced to close their doors, many food businesses have shifted to a delivery model to survive. Digital ordering and delivery have surpassed dine-in traffic by 300 percent since 2014. However, while converting to food delivery and takeout offers an additional (and much needed) income stream for restaurants, it also comes with its own set of considerations, particularly health and safety implications. Earlier last year, OSHA released safety guidelines for food deliveries and restaurants offering curbside pickups. Alongside their recommendations, here are a few key health and safety considerations restaurants need to keep in mind when converting to a food delivery model.
Design and Follow an Approved Food Safety Plan That Includes Preventive Risk Measures
Food facilities, including restaurants, are required to have a clearly outlined food safety plan that sets out dedicated controls to maintain the hygiene and quality of food preparation and food surfaces in the restaurant. For restaurants that decide to shift to offering delivery or takeouts, this will entail amending or including additions to their current food safety plan, including providing adequate training for employees who handle food preparation and delivery duties.
If you need help drafting a new food safety plan, The Food Safety Plan Builder by the FDA can provide useful information and guidance for restaurant and food delivery establishment owners. Restaurants may also need to invest in additional technology to help the food ordering and delivery process run smoothly, including EPOS ordering software and in-app purchasing systems for food deliveries. This software now comes with health and safety features, including allergen tagging, which ensures your business remains compliant with Food Safety Agency standards. Also, restaurants should aim to minimize the time between food preparation and delivery to avoid contamination risks.
Develop and Advertise a Frequent Cleaning and Hygiene Protocol
Any food business should follow strict hygiene protocols using the “four C’s” as a guide: cleaning, cooking, contamination and chilling. Be sure to store food ingredients and prepared dishes at the appropriate temperatures for storage. The FDA mandates that refrigerators in food establishments be kept at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. You will also need to consider food storage during transit for delivery. Insulated food transport bags ensure pre-packed takeaway dishes maintain their temperatures between leaving the restaurant and being delivered to the customer.
Restaurants should also extend their cleaning schedules to their delivery drivers and vehicles if possible. While this may be unlikely if they are contracting it out to a third-party food delivery platform, they can still implement hygiene measures between the arrival of delivery drivers and pickup, including providing hand sanitizing stations for hand cleaning between orders. For some in-house delivery drivers and employees that handle curbside food pickups, providing hygiene gear (including disposable gloves and sanitizing wipes to clean their delivery bags) should also be considered. Finally, include regular sanitization and a dedicated takeout pickup station to minimize transmission and maintain optimum hygiene.
Request and Implement Social Distancing Protocols Between Food Workers if Possible
With the current concerns about the pandemic and increased transmission, it has become apparent that food establishments need to act swiftly to minimize employee transmission, including when it comes to contracted employees like delivery drivers. One way to do this is to stagger delivery pickup times and encourage a distance of six feet between food service employees and delivery employees. Placing floor markers and separating customer and delivery driver pickup stations should help businesses in achieving this goal.
Clarify Your Local and State Regulations for Closure in The Case of Worker Infections
Several federal and local state regulations provide guidance for food establishments and restaurants that offer food delivery to minimize the chance of food becoming unsafe or hazardous. Restaurants are required to follow strict sanitation and preparation guidelines, which have been amped up in the wake of the pandemic. The laws you are required to follow will also depend on whether you will be utilizing a third-party food delivery service or keeping delivery in-house, along with the nature of food you plan on preparing for takeout.
The FDA’s Food Code model sets out standard guidelines for temperature control for the preparation and holding of hot and cold foods. For instance, there is a maximum storage and display temperature of 5 degrees celsius. Restaurants are also required to take steps to avoid cross-contamination during food storage through the practice of proper packaging and sealing for transport during delivery. To check the applicable food regulations for your state, head to the Food Service Codes and Regulations by State website.
Provide Assistance for Limited Contact Deliveries and Report Procedures for Delivery Drivers
Finally, the FDA and OSHA both recommend that food businesses create a dedicated reporting procedure for employees, including delivery employees, to report any illness or safety issue confidentially. This begins with creating a clear illness protocol for employees to follow, such as encouraging them to stay at home if sick and providing dedicated parking or handoff spaces for curbside or delivery pickups.
If you are keeping your delivery in-house, restaurants can minimize contact by providing cashless payment mechanisms and activating a no-contact delivery policy. The no-contact policy is offered by Uber Eats, DoorDash, and many other food delivery platforms. Educating your drivers on basic hygiene practices such as regularly washing their hands and keeping their equipment clean is also recommended to avoid safety issues.
While the shift to a food delivery model is understandable, it does present some health and safety challenges for food establishments. Introducing takeout options to your food business introduces extended health and safety responsibility—responsibility for safe food preparation and a responsibility to keep your delivery employees safe. If you are an establishment that chooses to convert to offering takeout dishes or delivery, ensure that every part of the process is protected against the potential health risks, from your supply chain to when your delivery driver rings the doorbell.