The Soapbox: How do you know if a restaurant is safe?

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Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.

There are few industries that have been as negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic than the restaurant industry. The hits have come hard; even unbearable for many, resulting in an astounding amount of closures…and many that are coming. I never imagined that a global pandemic would affect me so personally. As part of the Great NH Restaurants Leadership Team, I have firsthand knowledge of what it takes to make a restaurant safe and as a chef, I’m getting asked every day to answer that question.

The environment created has been a relentless storm for so many operators in our industry; guests’ fear of being around others, unsustainable financial loss, employees’ hesitation in returning to work, and so much more. The saving grace for many in the northeast has been outdoor dining… but winter will come and regulations are still tight. For an industry that operates on high volume and low profits, we’re facing an unsettling reality.

But why?

Why have restaurants been somewhat singled out as ‘unsafe’? Is it the fact that we handle consumable products? Is it that we are places of gathering? Perhaps. But industries like grocers and home stores fall under similar categories respectively and seem to be doing quite well and have enjoyed much more relaxed mandates.

The irony in much of what has come at our industry in terms of safety and mandates is that what is being asked of us has been quite easy to manage because it’s things we already do….either by previous regulations, standard industry practices, or company policy.

The great irony is that many of these practices: constant sanitizing of services, utilizing sterile equipment, chemical knowledge, deep understanding and training on food safety, practicing no cross-contamination, the growth of microorganisms, rapid fresh air intake and replacement are just a small example of safety practices we’ve been doing or trained to do discretely or ‘behind the scenes’ and not in front of our guests. It’s not the sexy part of our business, but it’s always been done.

We have now made a major shift into the exact opposite realm. Show guests how much you sanitize and with what chemicals, how educated your staff is on the spread of germs, and how fast your building replaces its air…to name a few.

So back to the original question: How do you know if a restaurant is safe?

At Great NH Restaurants, we’re confident that ours are.

And, now that the public is interested about the systems and procedures we have in place, we are happy to explain how we have always kept our employees and guests safe, including the dozens of additional safety protocols put into place since the beginning of the pandemic. And because we knew we were navigating in uncharted territory, we commissioned Saint Anselm College Survey Center to conduct a poll in late August to give us an idea of consumer attitudes about dining during the COVID pandemic; to ensure that practices and precautions being taken were aligned with consumers expectations for safe and comfortable dining experiences.

Said poll helped us to move forward with the purchase of the air purification system listed below. You see, there is constant and committed efforts on our part to ensure a wonderful and safe visit; these details have always gone above and beyond food and service. It’s the many layers guests do not see that create a truly wonderful (and safe) dining experience.

So when it comes to what we are doing to keep you safe, take a read below. We would challenge you to find a more robust list outside of the health industry … possibly including your own home.

Lastly, as a wife and mother of four, a chef, and a businesswoman I encourage everyone to take charge of the choices they make each day. Keep your family safe and do it in a way that maintains your quality of life. And when you choose to dine out, put your trust in those that you know have always stood behind the NH communities we love.

Efforts made 24/7 by all Great NH Restaurants

Air Exchange and filtration:

  • All Great NH Restaurant locations are equipped with NASA grade Aqualite US air purifiers. ActivePure® air cleaning
    technology is proven to safely remove 99.97 percent of airborne viruses as small as 0.1 micron, (including COVD-19) and destroy
    surface viruses and bacteria
  • Due to the economizers that bring in fresh air to the hood systems and make up air, in conjunction with the HVAC, complete
    air replacement takes place on average every 12 minutes. (5 ACH- Air Changes p/Hour) This is a better ACH than many
    places of business including most; malls, offices, post offices, banks, beauty shops, and municipal buildings, to name a few.

Cleaning and Sanitation:

  • Before open and throughout the day: Tables, chairs, and table tents are sanitized with a highly concentrated solution of Sani Quad. (The mix is 1oz. to 4 liters of water) as well as in-between guest seating. We also use a more diluted Sani Quad solution throughout our kitchens during operations on appropriate surfaces.
  • Closing Cleaning includes: The use of Redi San RTU, a sanitizer used at night on all hard surfaces, counters, doors, exteriors, walk-in refrigerator doors, etc.
  • All employees are ServSafe COVID-19 reopening certified
  • All managers and assistant managers are ServSafe Management certified
  • 70-80%+ Alcohol sanitizer stations located at entrance points & throughout the locations (including outdoor dining areas)
  • Dishwasher/sanitizer temperature is 180 degrees or higher
  • Bathrooms are sanitized every 30 minutes on average
  • Frequent sanitation of high touchpoints
  • Adjusted hours of service to accommodate cleaning/sanitation regimens
  • Close monitoring of vendor safety precautions for goods and services

Dining and Service:

  • Daily employee temperature checks
  • All employees have signed our Commitment to Health and Safety policy and it is strictly enforced, including mandatory quarantines
  • Posted ‘Notice to Guests’ posters requesting guests/patrons with possible COVID-19 symptoms/exposure to not dine with us
  • Masks/facial coverings required for all Front of House and Back of House employees at all times
  • Masks/facial coverings requested for patrons who are not sitting at a table
  • QR code touchless menus and online ordering
  • Wrapped silverware
  • Guests are requested to wait outside in personal vehicles and receive text/call when table is ready
  • Host greets outside when weather permits
  • Altered training protocols to improve distancing
  • Social distancing table configurations and partitions

Beg to differ? Agree to disagree? We welcome thoughtful submissions on topics of general interest to the community. Send to, subject line: The Soapbox

ChefNicole DachowskiRFW

Chef Nicole Barreira is with Great NH Restaurants, Inc. (T-BONES, CJ’s, Copper Door)

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