Playbook to Safely Reopen Food and Beverage

As governments around the world begin to relax social distancing rules and guidelines, food and beverage (F&B) face a huge challenge ahead of reopening. F&B venues have to plan how they can have customers enjoy their meals while ensuring their and their staff’s safety. Some countries have started to implement different levels or phases to gradually reopen their economy, during which strict guidelines will be enforced to encourage safe physical distancing and sanitization practices.

Our team at Aiselabs has researched important guidelines from governments, associations, and other resources. They have been summarized together and consolidated into a single document. Rules and guidelines may vary depending on geography, situation, and type of F&B venues (restaurants, bars, cafes, etc.) so specific links to resources have also been included.

In this playbook, you’ll learn about:

  1. Best practices for reopening F&B venues.
  2. Ensuring social distancing and health safety of both the patrons and the employees.
  3. Geography-specific guidelines for reopening around the world.

Situation During the Outbreak

During the outbreak, most of the F&B venues closed their physical dining areas, making only the takeout and delivery available. Online delivery services observed much higher traffic than usual due to the situation. To help the community while keeping businesses open, multiple restaurants provided discounted or free meals for various frontline workers and people in need.

Reopening Overview

Countries are beginning to ease restrictions on F&B venues to reopen. However, these restrictions will not be lifted all at once. All F&B venues must adhere to restrictions imposed by governments to reopen their locations for the safety of employees and customers alike. F&B venues are encouraged to limit seating capacity while providing equipment and materials necessary to keep everyone safe.

The image below shows a snapshot of the approximate suggested capacity of F&B venues per region or country.

Table of Contents:

Health and Hygiene

Employee Health Monitoring

Employees working at a cafe or restaurant should undergo strict health monitoring and temperature checks to ensure the safety of coworkers and customers. Employees showing signs of illness should not be allowed to enter the premises. Here are some preventative measures:

  • Temperature checks on both entry and exit of the premises.
  • Do not allow entry to any employee showing any signs of illness.
  • Bi-weekly tests for staff and temperature check-ups throughout their shifts.
  • Encourage frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizers.
  • Ask employees to avoid touching their face and eyes at all times.

Promoting Safe Customer Behaviour

Businesses should educate people on various sanitary and distancing guidelines to follow while dining in. Appropriate signage and instructions should be installed to avoid any confusion and make customers feel more comfortable.

  • Post instructions at the entrance denying entry to anyone with fever or symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Post signage to identify where to place and pick up takeout or delivery orders.
  • Post signage and floor markers to maintain an appropriate distance for guests waiting in line.
  • Visual cues should be present for entry and exit points if there exist separate entrances and exits.
  • Post signage indicating wash stations and to wash and sanitize your hands before and after every meal.

Cleaning and Sanitizing

Businesses should emphasize frequent cleaning of the premises as well as sanitizing the work environment and seating area to ensure safety for both staff and customers. Here are some measures businesses can follow:

  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize all areas touched by staff and customers.
  • Frequently clean and sanitize tables and chairs throughout the day.
  • Follow a deep cleaning routine of the whole premises before closing and opening up.
  • Clean and sanitize washrooms and toilets multiple times in a day.
  • Appoint a person for every shift in-charge of making sure protocols are being followed.
  • Avoid surfaces with possible food contact while using disinfectants.
  • Clean and sanitize menus after every customer order.
  • Have a deep cleaning response plan ready in case any employee tests positive for COVID-19.

Safety Measures

Some strict safety measures should be in place for both customers and employees to follow. Businesses should follow safety guidelines and protocols issued by local government but here are some extra ideas to follow:

  • Employees should wear protective gear such as gloves, masks, and face coverings if they are interacting with the customers.
  • Checking the temperature of every customer before entering the restaurant or cafe.
  • Sanitizers and wipes should be available at multiple places for both customers and employees to use.
  • There should be a dedicated handwashing station for customers to wash their hands with soap and water before and after every meal.
  • Try handing out all the tableware and essentials by wrapping in paper towels.
  • Make available contactless sanitizers or create sanitizer stations that can be operated with feet to reduce contact.
  • Create separate entry and exit points to reduce contact.
  • Suspend valet parking.

Social Distancing

Capacity and Dwell Time

Ensuring the safety of patrons and employees is of utmost priority to F&B venues. Social distancing measures play an imperative role in helping F&B venues achieve this and most of the countries have imposed a mandate on allowing F&B venues to operate at reduced capacity. The range fluctuates between 25 to 50 percent of the capacity and is usually by country or state.

  • Stagger workstations to avoid employees standing directly opposite or next to each other.
  • Remind third-party delivery drivers and suppliers with internal social distancing measure protocols.
  • Limit the number of employees allowed in a break room at a given time.
  • Consider a reservation-based business model and informing guests to show up at designated time slots to avoid crowding.

Physical Distancing

A distance of six feet is to be maintained between tables available at F&B venues. Staff interacting with guests should wear face masks at all times in order to reduce contact. F&B venues are also advised to take into consideration both staff and customer areas while physical distancing measures are implemented. Reducing physical contact is also a key component in maintaining safety of staff and guests.

  • Use messaging to support physical distancing measures.
  • Discontinue the use of menu cards, condiments, and marketing materials on tables.
  • Update floor plans to accommodate the six feet distance between two tables. If the furniture cannot be removed, mark certain chairs and tables as unavailable.

Digital Messaging

Digital messaging can be used to replace certain interactions between everyone within the venue. This will limit the number of face-to-face interactions to lower the risk of infection. Here are some examples of when digital messaging can be used:

  • Pre-shift information can be sent digitally to keep everyone informed while not having all the staff gathered closely.
  • Rules on social distancing can be sent to guest’s devices immediately upon connecting to the WiFi in addition to having physical signs on the premise.
  • Menus and ordering can be provided to the guest’s devices to compliment physical menus and ordering in person.
  • Updates on store hours and wait times that can reach your guests prior to arrival.


In certain situations where physical distancing would be hard to maintain for long durations, barriers like plexiglass can be used to minimize contact between individuals.

  • Having barriers set up at the register so that payments can be processed while maintaining some protection between guests and staff.
  • For dining-in, have barriers between different groups of guests to ensure their safety.
  • Any buffet-style setups like salad bars should have barriers in place to prevent the food from getting contaminated.

The World at a Glance

North America

Restrictions for F&B venues vary widely across states and countries. In the US, the state of Georgia allows opening its restaurants with not more than 10 patrons in the facility per 300 square feet of public space. The state of Florida has measures where restaurants can provide outdoor seating with proper spacing between tables and indoor seating at 25% of normal capacity. In addition to the state-wise guidelines, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) has come up with a set of guidelines to offer a framework and best practices for the reopening of restaurants. It covers a number of things that F&B venues should consider while reopening such as food safety, cleaning and sanitizing, employee health, etc. Although there is no mandate to do a temperature screening for employees, the operator should engage health officials and align with CDC’s policies in case they wish to do a screening. In terms of social distancing, the use of technology solutions is recommended to reduce person-to-person interactions such as mobile ordering, menu tablets, text on arrival for seating, and contactless payment options.

In Canada, each province has come up with a set of guidelines to be followed. Most provinces have come up with a 50% restriction on the capacity while maintaining social distancing measures. Provinces like Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia have not provided any specific guidelines on reopening the F&B venues. Prince Edward Island has been more specific and careful in reopening the F&B venues as they have planned to open them in Phase 3 which starts June 12, 2020. Indoor dining at food premises is permitted with the following restrictions:

  • No recreational spaces open (for example, pool tables, dance floor, VLTs)
  • No buffet-style serving
  • No sharing of utensils
  • Only members of the same household can dine together

Restaurants Canada has come up with a guide for supporting the operations of the F&B venues during the initial phase of reopening. The guide outlines various measures around physical distancing, cleaning and sanitation, health, and personal hygiene. Restaurants must demarcate the floor for any areas where a line may occur (restrooms, pick up counters, etc.) while bar seating should have one seat every six feet and a physical barrier between guest and bar or kitchen. Regarding cleaning and sanitation, the usage of approved-hard surface disinfectants that have a Drug Identification Number (DIN) is recommended.


While some countries in this region have already started allowing the F&B venues to open, they are advised to strictly adhere to the guidelines provided by the government and health departments in their respective countries. Countries like the UK have made clear that reopening of some of the F&B venues will start on July 1 contingent on five key factors – NHS capacity, declining death rates, a rate of infection below 1, sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE), and no risk of overwhelming the NHS with a second spike. Italy, one of the most affected countries in Europe, has plans to reopen bars and restaurants for dine-in service. Restaurants in Germany have started opening with suggested hygiene rules that include 1.5 meters distance between tables, staff wearing masks, disinfecting tables between guests, and guest limits for each restaurant (10 square metre per person) while Ireland has suggested the number to be 4 diners per 10 square meters. In these trying times, a few restaurants have come up with innovative ideas to keep their guests happy. For instance, Café & Konditorei Rothe in Germany that opened last week had customers wear hats with pool noodles attached as a silly way to maintain socially distancing. Wearing masks by employees is mandatory in most of the countries and increasing outdoor space capacity was considered in few countries.

Latin America

Countries in the Latin America region have started opening-up and, similar to other regions, each country has come up with a different set of guidelines to be followed by F&B venues. Several countries in this region have started opening up for curbside pickups, deliveries, and drive-thru. The National Restaurant Association – Canirac in Mexico has recommended limiting the number of diners to 10 and operating at 30% capacity while testing the employees for temperature both on entering and exiting the premises. Employees also need to wear a mask at all times and the usage of cellphones is prohibited. In countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, street food businesses are also allowed to open along with other delivery services while the in-house dining remains closed.

Middle East

COVID-19 has had a massive impact on the Middle East restaurant industry. Iran was worst hit in the Middle East but has eased up on restrictions and allowed restaurants to operate with only 50% of capacity.

Dubai has taken a step forward and lifted restriction limits to 30% capacity for restaurants. Other countries like Abu Dhabi and Lebanon continue to restrict restaurants to 30% capacity. All Middle East countries have issued very strict sanitary and social distancing guidelines for restaurants to follow such as:

  • Two metres distance between tables
  • Must have sanitizers at every entrance
  • Valet parking suspended
  • Separate entry and exit points
  • Tables and chairs must be sanitized frequently
  • Bi-weekly tests for staff and temperature checks throughout shifts
  • Staff must wear masks and gloves while working.

The Dubai government is also taking strict actions by shutting down businesses that fail to follow these guidelines.

Some countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and others are still struggling to reopen. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have a phased approach towards reopening but restaurants in Turkey could reopen around June 15.

Businesses in the Middle East are finding ways to adapt to the new normal and finding different ways to survive. For example, a Dubai based startup named have started a commission free website where consumers can order directly from restaurant’s websites and social media, this helps restaurants avoid the commission charges from third party delivery aggregators.

Asia Pacific

Many countries have started gradually loosening the restrictions on restaurants and have allowed them to operate under strict guidelines. All these countries have imposed different regulations for restaurants and eateries to follow in order to operate.

China has restricted restaurants to allow only 50% customers at a time and restrict groups to only 4 people. The government is also colour coding everyone with colours green, yellow or red based on their travel history and health status using an app. Restaurants and eateries are asking customers to show their colour on the app before entering. South Korea, one of the earliest countries to get hit with COVID-19, has flattened the curve and started reopening businesses. Restaurants are following the guidelines provided by the government and a lot of restaurants are taking initiatives such as introducing robots for service and cooking. Restaurants in Thailand have been asked to keep their customers at least 1.5 meters apart, circulate fresh air, and allowing only 50% customers at a time. Restaurants or cafes with more than 200 square metres of space must have a temperature checkpoint at the entrance. Taiwan and Vietnam have also eased up on restrictions and asked restaurants to comply with strict guidelines. Japan has ended the COVID-19 state of emergency and asked people and businesses to follow precautionary measures such as side by side seating at a restaurant and keep conversations to a minimum.

India has a nationwide lockdown where only essential businesses are allowed to run with restaurants can only provide takeaway and delivery. Singapore and Indonesia both have phased plans. Singapore has named theirs circuit breaker which consists of three phases and Indonesia has a three-phase plan as well.

Australia & New Zealand

Initially, Australia announced a phased reopening plan but different states are now taking their own paths. New South Wales has recently announced that pubs, cafes, and restaurants will be able to serve up to 50 people starting June 1st instead of following the 10 people restriction, there are still some new guidelines businesses must follow such as:

  • Each patron must have at least four square meters of space
  • No one is allowed to stand, mingle or dance
  • Buffets and shared cutlery is also banned.

Similarly, Victoria has also followed in the footsteps of NSW and announced a 3 staged plan commencing June 1st allowing restaurants to operate with up to 20 people, increases up to 50 people on  June 22nd, and finally 100 people in mid-July. Some other states are still keeping up with the 3 stage plan introduced by the federal government and will be adhering to the guidelines specified.

Just like Australia, New Zealand has introduced a phased plan to reopen businesses in which restaurants were allowed to operate at a capacity of 10 at a time. With the improving conditions the government has eased up the restrictions by making it 10 to 100 people. With this update there are several guidelines businesses must follow such as:

  • 1 metre distance between tables and people
  • Customers must be seated at the table
  • Only one server at any table
  • Customer records must be kept to enable contact tracing

Get in touch with our team:

We hope that this playbook will be useful for your company as you plan for reopening. If you have any suggestions or found any updates, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to reach out to us at and we will get in touch with you as soon as possible.

Playbook for Shopping Malls

Our team also developed a comprehensive playbook to reopen shopping centres to ensure a safe shopping experience for your customers while ensuring the safety of your staff. The playbook summarizes guidelines from various countries with links to document sources.

Aislelabs’ coverage on responses to coronavirus:

Shopping Malls
Brands & Retail
Food & Beverage

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