Operating a Food Business During COVID-19 - Frequently Asked Questions

Following the NSW Government’s announcement of further easing of COVID-19 restrictions from Friday 15 May 2020, Council has compiled some of the most commonly asked questions to assist businesses re-opening. 

Q: How many patrons can I seat in my restaurant/café?

This area is ever changing it is best to always check the NSW Government or Service NSW Websites for all up to date information.

Please click on the link below for all up to date information regarding restaurants and cafes.

https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/industry-guidelines/restaurants-cafes-food-courts

 

Q: Do the new rules also apply to pubs/clubs?

This area is ever changing it is best to always check the NSW Government or Service NSW Websites for all up to date information.

Please click on the link below for all up to date information regarding pubs and clubs.

https://www.nsw.gov.au/media-releases/tough-new-covid-19-compliance-measures-for-pubs

 

Q: I have indoor and outdoor seating, how many patrons can I have?

This is now based on the 4m² per person ruling. Please see the link below

https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/what-you-can-and-cant-do-under-rules/four-square-metre-rule

Please see the example below which you should be using to work out how many customers you can have in the premises at any one time to ensure the 4m² rule is complied with.

Example

  • Length of the room = 8.25 metres
  • Width of the room = 10.6 metres
  • Square metres: 8.25 x 10.6 = 87.45
  • Maximum number of people: 87.45 ÷ 4 = 21 people

The table below gives you an idea of how much space is required. Although the restrictions have eased to allow 50 patrons/customers you must have the space to accommodate the 4m² ruling. If you don’t have the space then your patrons/customer number will be lower.

Number of people

Minimum space required

1

4 square metres

10

40 square metres

20

80 square metres

30

120 square metres

40

160 square metres

50

200 square metres

60

240 square metres

70

280 square metres

80

320 square metres

90

360 square metres

100

400 square metres

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is very important that you have calculated your space correctly so that you are not in breach of social distancing rules and the 4m² ruling.

Q. Can I still serve take-away food even if I am able to open for seated patrons?

Yes. You can continue to serve take-away food as well as be open for seated patrons. It is the business owner’s decision to choose whether to open and serve takeaway, or to continue to just serve takeaway.

It is important to remember the 4m² per person ruling and the social distancing requirements.

 

Q: Is there a new requirement to serve food with disposable (single use) cutlery and crockery?

Council strongly recommends any food business who does not have a commercial dishwashing machine that can sanitise cutlery and crockery to a minimum temperature of 80 degrees Celsius (irrespective of whether they have food grade sanitiser), to provide food with disposable (single use) cutlery and crockery.

All food businesses have been made aware through routine food premises inspections of their obligation to clean and sanitise food contact surfaces.

For more advice visit https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/industry/Pages/COVID-19---Advice-for-food-businesses-on-general-health-and-hygiene.aspx

 

Q: What can I do to provide a COVID-19 safe environment for my seated patrons?

  • Provide physical distancing of 1.5 meters between tables
  • Provide a supply of hand sanitiser at customer entrances and encourage patrons to make use of it
  • Wear gloves during table cleaning and wash-up process
  • Prioritise table, chair and menu cleaning and sanitising immediately afters patrons vacate/use
  • Limit customer self-serve to cutlery, crockery, complimentary water glasses, straws etc.
  • Provide menus that are able to be easily and effectively cleaned and sanitised
  • Provide menus and booking information online, to minimise queuing and time spent in a venue

To download a handy check-list visit: https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/industry/Documents/Recommencing%20operations%20checklist%202020.pdf

Q: What can I do to provide a COVID-19 safe environment for my staff, customers and my community?

COVID-19 is not a foodborne disease. All food businesses must continue to comply with existing requirements under the Food Standards Code. Businesses with good preparations and procedures in place can minimise the impact of an employee diagnosed with COVID-19

Review the health status of staff

- It is essential that all staff understand the importance and regulations about not working while sick

- Staff checks should be done on a daily basis to review the health status of workers. e.g. do staff report feeling unwell with any flu like symptoms (sore throat, fever, cough)?

- If yes, workers should be excluded from the workplace immediately and asked to self-isolate for 14 days

Reinforce good hand hygiene

- Proper hand washing is one of the most effective tools in preventing the spread of novel coronavirus.

- Handwashing should be increased under the current circumstances (after going to the bathroom, touching your face, after handling raw food) and should be done effectively according to guidance from the Department of Health. NOTE: Glove wearing is not an exception to washing of hands.

- Hand sanitiser should not be used as a substitute for washing hands with soap for food handlers

- Additional hand sanitising points should be set up throughout the business

  • Ensure that all food contact surfaces are regularly cleaned and sanitised.
  • Check that your commercial dishwasher can sanitise cutlery and crockery to a minimum of 80 degrees Celsius.
  • Do not accept ‘keep-cups’ at this stage
  • Encourage a contact-less payment system such as tap-and-go card payments or direct bank transfer
  • Provide menus online (via Facebook or website) so that patrons can view menu items before arriving and spend less time deciding.

For more information and advice visit https://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/help/covid-19-advice-for-businesses

Q. Does my business have to provide a form of contact-less payment methods to be allowed to operate?

No. There is no legal requirement which forces a business to make customers pay via contactless methods (such as tap-and-go). As the COVID-19 virus can spread through touching infected objects, businesses are encouraged to make contactless payment methods available for customers, and promote their use to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 spread. For businesses who are unable to offer contactless payment methods, Council strongly recommends that businesses provide hand sanitiser at pay counters for customer use. Council also recommends that business operators regularly disinfect electronic payment machines, the pay counter and cash register. Operators are reminded that they must always appropriately wash their hands after handling cash, and before resuming food handling.

For more information visit: https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/social-distancing

Q. I understand that bars must remain closed in pubs/clubs; Am I able to serve my seated patrons alcohol with their meal?

Yes. Alcohol can only be purchased with food, or to take-away. The bar may operate for this purpose only, and must not be open for ‘walk-ins’ and patrons not wishing to eat a meal at the bistro/restaurant/café.

For more information: https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/what-you-can-and-cant-do-under-rules

Q. What are the rules for takeaway orders and eating in?

A customer who buys takeaway food or drink, must leave the premises to consume it.

For more information: https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/what-you-can-and-cant-do-under-rules

Q: Is Council continuing routine food premises inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Council is committed to minimising the risk of COVID-19 to its community and staff members. As such, Council has made a decision to temporarily suspend the food premises inspection program until further notice. However, complaints relating to alleged food-borne illness or poor food handling standards will be investigated. 

For more information please contact Council’s Environmental Health & Building Surveyor

Sharon Coulston

Phone: 02 6036 0100 or 1300 653 538

Email: mail@greaterhume.nsw.gov.au