This week many states began to place restrictions on restaurants to prevent the spread of Coronavirus or COVID19. Many restaurants are now only able to provide carryout or delivery service for food and beverages. However, food service providers in healthcare communities, workplaces and other essential facilities must continue to make meals for those they serve. In fact, we play a critical role in making sure healthcare workers and medical staff can take care of those in need during a crisis. While this new illness is unchartered territory for everyone, most quality food service providers have a plan of action that includes the following considerations:
Having an Emergency Plan
Having an easily executable plan of action that can be put into place in the event of an emergency, whether a natural disaster or epidemic, is crucial. The plan should include how any disruption to food, water and labor will be handled. This may seem simple on the surface but developing a plan that can be implemented quickly plan requires careful coordination of many moving parts. A good emergency plan will ensure managers and supervisors are prepared to:
- Work with vendors to ensure you have an ample emergency food supply and go-to emergency ordering guide.
- Ensure you have an adequate supply of disposables on hand should dishwashing become a concern.
- Plan emergency menus that can be quickly deployed based on a variety of emergency situations.
- Assess how you can keep your kitchen running using limited resources like battery power or a generator.
- Speak with your employees beforehand to discuss limitations they may have to get to work in emergencies and create a minimum staffing plan just in case.
- Have a contingency plan to pull resources from other locations. This may include centralizing meal prep and creating a meal distribution plan. Communicate your plan to employees and train them on how to react in these situations.
Creating a Staffing Support Structure
During an emergency caused by illness, it’s important to cooperate with the facility you work in and follow guidelines they set, as well as those set by state and national agencies like the CDC. School closures, illnesses and damage to personal property can put a strain on food service staffing. Recent events have left many parents without childcare, making work schedules tough to manage. It’s important to identify workers who may be able to shelter in place in the event of an emergency, as well as those who may have transportation or child care issues. If possible, create a ride-sharing program for your staff in case of closures to public transportation services. Finally, discuss with your management team where they can step in during an emergency or provide additional staff from other locations. Once again, make sure your emergency staffing plan has been communicated to all employees well in advance and have a plan to communicate with staff throughout any emergency using a variety of resources and platforms.
Cleaning and Sanitation
In the event of an illness related emergency, proper cleaning and sanitation play an essential role in combating the spread of viruses or bacteria. Proper sanitation, food safety and food handling procedures are required by law so this initiative should be the easiest to enact. Direct all locations to routinely clean with an EPA and CDC emerging-pathogens approved product. Make sure that all teams have access to in-service guides and that team members know how to handle and use these products safely and correctly. Make personal hygiene a focus. Conduct in-service training with employees on proper handwashing techniques, avoiding touching their faces and how to cover a cough or sneeze. Finally, regularly check sanitation equipment like commercial dishwashers and make sure they are meeting the requirements outlined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). A high-temperature dishwasher uses hot water to sanitize, wash water should reach 150-180℉ and rinse water should be between 180-195℉. A low-temperature dishwasher uses chemical sanitizers, like chlorine, to sanitize. The water temperature in these machines should reach 120-150℉, but never go above 150℉ as the chlorine becomes unstable at high temperatures. Your Food Service Director should have a procedure in place to measure the temperature of your dishwasher daily and a plan on how to repair the machine in case it is not meeting correct temperatures.
An efficient food service program can help to maintain a sense of normalcy during trying times. Uninterrupted meal service is a valuable tool to combat the feelings of uneasiness and anxiety that surround a crisis. A smile and some conversation from dedicated food service employees can lift the spirits of those you serve and motivate hardworking staff to continue in the face of challenges. Consider that many residents are unable to receive visits from family and friends and many healthcare workers also find themselves separated from loved ones during times like these. Your food service program should make an extra effort to spread kindness and joy wherever possible in these moments.
If you’re unsure whether your food service provider has a plan in place for crisis situations, call them and ask! Use this article as a checklist of things to discuss during your conversation. At Culinary Services Group we see ourselves as a valuable partner to our clients in times of crisis. Click here to learn more about our response to COVID19 and the measures we are taking as a company to prevent it’s spread.