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May 13, 2020

Reopening Restaurants: Guidance from the National Restaurant Association

What will the restaurant and food service industry look like in the days to come? And how can restaurants reopen successfully and responsibly keeping the safety of employees and patrons in mind? As states, cities, and counties across the US begin to re-open businesses, restaurants of all kinds are planning how best to approach reopening.

The trick will be to balance precautionary measures that make guests feel dining out is safe and enjoyable with the financial implications of new revenue models – models which provide more space between patrons (aka reduced occupancy) and increased staff time dedicated to safety, guest flow, hosting, preparation, and maintenance.

The National Restaurant Association released a 10-page guide to reopening to help ensure a safer environment for employees and guests. It was developed with input from federal agencies like the CDC, EPA, and FDA. The guide can be downloaded from The National Restaurant Association’s website.

Highlights from the guide are:

  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize entire facility, especially if it has been closed.
  • Consider using rolled silverware and eliminating table presets.
  • Single-use items should be discarded.
  • Clean and sanitize reusable menus.
  • Discard paper menus after each use.
  • Between seatings, clean and sanitize all table items and common touch surfaces, including tabletops, table condiments, ordering devices, check presenters, and any self-service areas.
  • Make hand sanitizer easily available to guests, consider touch-free hand sanitizing solutions.
  • Grab and Go offerings: stock coolers at minimum level
  • Sneeze guards for salad bars and buffets (where permitted)
  • Change, clean, and sanitize utensils frequently
  • Place appropriate barriers in open areas


Employers and employees should follow state and local requirements when it comes to face coverings. The CDC continues to recommend masks that cover the nose and mouth as an effective practice to mitigate risk.

Temperature Checks

The Nation Restaurant Association states that employee temperature checks can be done at the discretion of the employer (temperature checks are not mandated by the CDC).

The National Restaurant Association will continue to share best practices from federal agencies. Restaurant owners, employees, and patrons all want what the National Restaurant Association trying to help achieve – safely reopening establishments, while reassuring patrons that gathering for a meal is a safe activity which can be enjoyed.