Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, 6 Million jobs were lost in the restaurant industry. Restaurants suffered the worst losses during March and April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Restaurant workers regained 3 million jobs by August of 2020. Many of these jobs were lost again when restaurants were forced to close during the November resurgence of Covid-19 infections.
Restaurants were hardest hit because of the closeness of servers and cooks to customers. Chief among their concerns is can they even make money if they reopen given the social distancing guidelines. In May some Roswell, GA restaurants coped by closing all their locations and serving take-out meals from one location.
Before the coronavirus pandemic swept through the nation, the restaurant industry was projected to make $899 billion in sales during 2020. The National Restaurant Association now estimates that restaurant losses could total $240 billion by the end of 2020.
It is estimated that millions of these lost jobs will never be regained because many restaurants were forced to close permanently. This is why restaurant owners are eager to reopen their business while still keeping their employees and customers healthy during the pandemic.
Restaurant owners realize that it takes time to put the safety measures in place and train their staff to execute those precautions. Restaurant owners sometimes spend years creating a dining experience that is comfortable and convenient for guests. Creating a welcoming food experience is more difficult because of the health precautions needed to prevent the spread of Covid-19. With the recent introduction of the Covid 19 vaccination we may still need precautions such as temperature scanning, hand sanitizing, mask wearing and social distancing.
Dr. Daniel Refai of Atlanta, Georgia anticipates that people won't be protected for life with only one Covid 19 vaccine.
Working with the CDC the National Restaurant Association released a set of guidelines to help restaurants reopen
- Use face coverings for employees and possibly for guests of the restaurants.
- Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol when washing is not possible.
- Frequent cleaning of tabletops, cooking areas and cash registers is crucial for a safe reopening. Use disposable menus or online menus, which the customer can read on their cell phone to reduce infection risk.
- Place more distance between tables or use barriers to enforce social distancing.
"Just like influenza, which is also a coronavirus, we're going to have to require yearly vaccinations. There's actually talk of even requiring two vaccines for Covid 19", said Dr. Refai.
He also believes that, "we're going to have to come to terms with having new social norms. Hand sanitization, wearing masks social distancing and temperature screening are probably going to be with us for a very long time".
Most restaurants and other hospitality businesses such as hotels have begun using temperature scanners to screen customers who may have a temperature higher than 100.4°F. It's very common to see hand sanitizer containers in restaurants, retail stores and offices. There are some serious flaws in current solutions such as the hand held temperature scanners. The 1 quart or smaller hand sanitizer pump bottles also have a number of problems.
Let's start with handheld temperature scanners. They are inexpensive and easy to locate but they are not accurate unless held a specific distance from the forehead of the person being tested. The restaurant employee who scans people at the door is exposed to every person who may be infected when they enter. This presents a health risk to restaurant employees.
When we look at commercially available bottles of hand sanitizer, these help to reduce the coronavirus spread by human hands. Unfortunately, these bottles typically hold less than a quart and have to be refilled or replaced daily, depending on the traffic entering the business. These bottles can be stolen or may become clogged during use. The fact that everyone touches the hand pump also poses another virus contamination hazard.
Several companies have tried to combine temperature scanning into an automated solution. The most interesting is a combined temperature scanner and hand sanitizer called the IntelliStart Station.
IntelliStation overcomes handheld scanner problems by using a medical-grade temperature scanner and testing your temperature at the wrist where body temperature is closest to your core temperature. The temperature scanner automatically compensates for the distance between the scanner and the wrist to ensure higher accuracy. The person being tested just inserts their hands into the loop structure. The scanner measures their body temperature and then quickly displays a green light signal if they are clear to enter the building. A red light indicator tells customers that they need to wait to be screened with further questions. Finally, the customer receives a measured squirt of hand sanitizer.
Hand sanitizer is delivered through medical-grade pumps and tubing that are controlled by intelligent software. The hand sanitizer control system prevents clogging and contamination of the hand sanitizer fluid. A locked container holds up to 1 gallon of hand sanitizer. With enough sanitizer to treat up to 6,000 hands, restaurant employees won't waste time with frequent refills. The system even notifies the staff when it needs to be refilled. Using a Wi-Fi connection the restaurant owner can track how many people may have an elevated temperature and other analytics. The data from the system can be used to help form healthy habits for hand sanitizing and temperature scanning for the employees.