How Hotels and Restaurants Can Keep COVID-19 Away
The coronavirus can be transferred between people and surfaces while serving ice. (iStock/Kannapon1860)
The nearly year-long coronavirus pandemic has redefined the consumer perception of cleanliness and will leave a lasting impact on what consumers can expect from food and beverage purveyors. As a new wave of COVID-19 cases emerges across the United States, restaurants and bars must ensure that effective cleaning protocols are enforced to protect customers and staff from exposure to coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
Below are tips for best practices to keep in mind for employees, kitchen cleanliness and an often overlooked aspect to avoiding disease — the ice machine.
Best Practices for Employees
In 2020, “food handling/food preparation related to risk of COVID-19” was cited as one of the top safety concerns from the general public. Employers should continue to implement CDC-recommended best practices including:
- No contact greetings.
- Create habits and reminders to avoid touching their faces and cover coughs and sneezes.
- Disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, tables, food prep surfaces and handrails regularly.
- Increase ventilation by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning.
- Proper hand-washing procedures that include washing at least 20 seconds with soap and water after using restroom facilities, touching their faces or handling money.
Many of these regulations have been in place for years, but the coronavirus pandemic has altered safety standards and increased the probability of many new procedures being permanently added to future guidelines.
Best Practices for Kitchen and Equipment Cleanliness
The proper cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting of food contact surfaces is crucial in maintaining a safe work environment. A food contact surface includes ovens, microwaves, cutting boards, tabletops and any other surface where food is prepared or served. An ice machine and bin also are considered food contact surfaces by the FDA.
There are many approved cleaners that the EPA suggests using to combat viral contaminants. Food-grade cleaners must follow federal and manufacturers’ guidelines to remain safe and effective. Bleach is the most widely used and cost-effect disinfectant on the market.
Keep in mind, disinfecting means using a stronger concentration of the cleaner and must be rinsed. When using a sanitizing agent, leave the solution on the surface to air dry. This gives the solution time to sanitize the surface. Here are some additional tips for cleaning the exterior of your equipment:
- Pre-wash any soiled area with warm water.
- Wipe the area with a solution of eight ounces of bleach per gallon of water (or other EPA approved cleaner).
- Let the solution sit for at least five minutes.
- Rinse the area thoroughly with water and let air dry.
- To sanitize further, spray the area with a mixture of two teaspoons of bleach to one gallon of water.
- Let air dry.
An ice machine is not the best environment for viruses like coronavirus to flourish because the virus requires a living cell in to replicate. However, it can still be transferred between people and surfaces while serving ice.
Here are a few tips you can follow order to prevent the spread of diseases:
- Always keep the bin door closed when ice is not being used.
- Require employees to wash their hands prior to scooping ice out of the bin.
- Always use an ice scoop to dispense ice. Do not scoop using glassware.
- Store the ice scoop outside of the bin.
- Sanitize the ice scoop with a mixture of two teaspoons of chlorine bleach per gallon of water (you can also sanitize the scoop in your dishwasher).
Here are tips for cleaning the inside of your ice bin:
- Use a spray bottle filled with the disinfecting solution to saturate contaminated surfaces.
- Wipe the areas to remove the debris and make sure to rinse the area well.
- Once you’ve wiped the bin down after disinfecting, reapply the solution to sanitize.
- Leave the mixture to air dry.
These regulations will help maintain elevated standards of cleanliness and decrease the spread of diseases through food preparation. By keeping a clean and safe work environment, restauranteurs and hotel staff are doing their part to promote a healthy society.
John Mahlmeister is the chief operating officer and co-founder of Easy Ice. For more information, please visit www.easyice.com.