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What will Florida restaurants need to do to re-open?

A food safety expert has a suggested checklist of items that will make customers more comfortable "dining in."

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — While Florida's neighbor, Georgia, started reopening restaurant dining rooms, it's going to be a different experience here for both workers and customers.

Florida hasn't announced any official plans to start the process of reopening restaurants, but it's just a matter of time. 

Danielle Egger with Florida Food Safety Systems has quite a few recommendations for restaurants. Many of those have to do with keeping things clean and sanitized. And some have to do with the expectation that we could still be "social distancing" for some time.

That means as many of these restaurants begin to re-open, they will likely be at 50 percent capacity. Some restaurants have been thriving on take-out orders, but transitioning back to full service could take some time and planning. 

Employees will need to be trained on the latest sanitizing measures, menus may need to be altered and Egger says chairs and tables will have to be spaced further apart.  

"Restaurant owners might want to consider renting a pod or some kind of storage unit and just pull those extra tables and chairs out, but the reason for that is it's going to deter people from crowding," Egger said. "Also, it creates a better ambiance if every other table is not cordoned off with yellow caution tape."

Here are just a few of Egger's other recommendations that will help customers and worker feel more comfortable with full-service dining:

1. Having masks for the staff and making sure they are trained on how to put them on and take them off.

2. Ordering or printing disposable menus. That's one less item that would be passed from customer to customer.

3. Removing all items from the guest tables, including condiments. Customers would likely prefer disposable, single-use packets.

4. Going to reservation only. This would keep crowds from gathering and waiting around a hostess area or standing around the bar.

Florida Food Safety Systems offers a more extensive checklist and standard operating procedure guidelines on their website.   

They will also provide restaurants and staff with a refresher course on food safety and sanitizing to help get our favorites places back open and safe for customers. 

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