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Are You Ready to Reopen?

While most states are starting to reopen in some form, others such as New York, have a long road ahead. And despite the fact that most states are starting to reopen, not every state can be treated equal. While Wisconsin bars and restaurants were flocked with patrons earlier this month, it’s neighbors to the west in Minnesota are still without. It can be difficult to design a reopening guide that is one size fits all since restrictions and regulations will vary state-by-state.  

Reopening considerations courtesy of the National Restaurant Association.

However, despite all of the differing guidelines, a few pieces will be universal: health and hygiene requirements, social distancing needs and how to respond if a case is determined. And even if you’ve remained open throughout all of this by means of take-out/drop-off family meals or other methods, it’s never a bad idea to take a second, third, or even fourth look at what you’re doing to protect yourself, your business, your employees and your clients.

"It is indisputable...that planning, training, and implementing reasonable health and safety measures are the best ways to protect live events and the people who create them,” said Steven A. Adelman, Vice President for the Event Safety Alliance in the recently released Reopening Guide, “while also inspiring patrons to return to the places where we make magic happen.”

Health and hygiene

First and foremost, before you event start about reopening, you must first thoroughly review, evaluate and rethink your health and hygiene practices. Refer to this checklist from EcoLab to determine if you are ready to reopen.

“So much of what we’re moving in to, it’s not only the practical application, but also that sense of confidence," said Thad Smith of Sterno Products during the recent ICA Operations Roundtable webinar. “All of these things must be followed to the letter.”  


There is going to have to be a cultural shift when it comes to wearing masks in public. Right now, everyone is fighting the need to wear them, so it is up to the professionals to make the practice more commonplace and “normal.” “Widespread messaging by venue and event professionals can accomplish two essential goals: (a) patrons will learn that the new rules are for their protection, which will eventually lead to greater compliance; and (b) transparently showing new sanitary practices will coax nervous people back into public places.,” according to the Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide.

Join Catersource on June 26 for the Rebuild & Rise Webinar "Can Buffets Survive COVID?" Learn more and register by clicking here.

Think about ways that masks can be incorporated to along with the feel of event. If it’s wedding, maybe monogrammed masks can be added to the mix. Or what about glow-in-the-dark masks on the dance floor? Maybe they could be utilized as part of a team-building event as part of a corporate training by asking guests to select masks based on their team or department. However you decide to approach masks, remember that guests are going to want to see them.  


Fortunately, gloves are nothing new in the catering world since back-of-house staff have always used them. The shift will come in the form of front-of-house staff, as well as guests donning them at events as an added precaution. Rather than plastic gloves, think about adding white gloves to your servers’ uniforms to bring an added level of luxury to your events. Changing gloves may also become more popular, in order to provide another layer of safety.  

Keep in clean 

Venues and catering facilities are going to need added hand washing and sanitizing stations to account for the added cleaning requirements from state and federal agencies. Companies such as Cambro offer mobile washing and sanitation stations.  Additional sanitizing practices will also be required, including sanitizing all services, utensils, serving ware.  

Cambro offers a number of mobile washing stations.


As more regulations come out, disposable products may become required, everything from plates to utensils to beverageware to napkins. Communal serving ware such as salad dressing canisters, water pitches, and even salt and pepper shakers may need to be rethought. 

“There’s a lot of those little things are going to be nagging questions,” said LeeAnn Kelly, Vice President of Sales, Marketing & Global Sourcing for American Metalcraft, during the Operations Roundtable. 

One caterer, Brancato's Catering out of Kansas City, has already implemented this practice by not allowing china at any of their events and instead are using single-use disposable products.

When looking at your health, hygiene and sanitizing practices, make sure to refer to the latest recommendations for the Centers for Disease Comtrol.  

Social Distancing 

Whenever you decide to reopen, make sure that you have adequate space for social distancing among employees and guests if you don’t intend to require masks. American Metalcraft has released a new line of social distancing products to aid in this. AllSeated has also added another element to its virtual floorplanning tool which allows you set social distancing requirements between seated guests.  

AllSeated's floorplan tool now offers social distancing capabilities. 

Brancato's has instituted a policy of self-service bussing stations to ensure staff is maintaining social distance with the guests. 


Additional protocols are going to have to be put in place to not only determine if someone could be carrying the virus, but also how to respond if someone tests positive following an event. Consider implementing a health checklist for employees to determine if they are clear to work. Will thermo scanners be required at events, or for employees to report for work? All of these are considerations to take into account. And what if someone reports that they are sick after an event, how should you respond? Consider these bullet points from the Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide.  

  • Legal Warning. It may be illegal to provide the infected worker’s name or other information that could be used to determine their identity. Consult your local health department and human resources policy regarding reporting protocols. 

  • Determine what areas of the venue were visited, used, or impacted by the infected worker (the “Impacted Areas”).  

  • Assess whether the worker’s role put them within six feet (two meters) of other workers or patrons, including whether their duties create specific transmission risks such as food handling, bartending, or ticket checking. 

  • Work with the local health department to determine which other workers had close contact with the infected worker (the “Impacted Workers”).  

  • Notify the Impacted Workers that they may have had contact with an infected worker and encourage them to monitor their health and report any concerns to their healthcare provider. Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide 8  

  • Any worker who tests positive for COVID-19 should remain in home isolation for not less than 14 days after symptoms begin. The worker should follow health authority guidance and their company policy.  

  • Impacted Workers who have been in close contact with a person who tests positive, but who are not presently symptomatic or suffering a fever greater than 100.4 F/38.0 C, should not come to work for 14 days after their last close contact, and quarantine themselves. During quarantine, they should watch for symptoms of COVID-19. 

So, are you ready?

When considering whether it is time to reopen or not, make sure you consider all aspects thoroughly, objectively and do whatever is best for you and your business, while ensuring the health and safety of everyone involved.  Lee Derrik from EcoLab advised that the top three things to consider when preparing to reopen are:

  • Develop a plan for safeguarding employees such as but not limited to proper training on hand hygiene and personal hygiene including proper cough etiquette and social distancing, education on the symptoms of COVID-19 and what to do in case symptoms appear, and provide hygiene materials such as tissues, hand soap, and sanitizer.
  • For areas outside of the kitchen, properly train staff on and implement enhanced environmental hygiene protocols.  This includes education for employees on disinfection hard surfaces, the importance and frequency of disinfecting high touch point surfaces, and proper PPE for both cleaning and person infection prevention following local public health guidelines.
  • For foodservice, reinforce good food safety procedures and where possible create social distancing among staff.   

Regardless of when you decide to open your doors, one thing is for sure; the world of catering will never be the same.

"Consumer expectations are evolving as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and they expect a heightened level of cleanliness in all businesses they interact with," said Cody Ward Wolkowitz senior marketing manager for EcoLab. "From telling consumers about the cleaning and safety protocols that have been implemented, to providing visible indications of cleanliness such as staff visibly cleaning or added signage to inform of cleanliness standards, to providing key safety packages, the future of catering will ensure consumers feel safe and well cared for.

Brian Ingalls, Director of Sales and Business Development for Brancato's Catering, agrees.

"I think that talking to your customers and finding out the level of concern is the best practice moving forward," he said.



Amber Kispert

Content Producer

Amber is the Content Producer for Catersource. Amber previously worked as a Communications Specialist for LeClair Group and a reporter for the Woodbury Bulletin, both located in Woodbury, Minn.  As a self-described "foodie," Amber loves to experience the world of food and beverages, and is excited to help share the stories of Catersource and the world's caterers.