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The outbreak of COVID-19 is changing restaurant operations throughout the world. Some restaurants remain closed per local regulations, but others are reopening using adjusted business models that put their employees’ and customers’ health needs first. While there are few changes you can implement on your own, like sanitation measures, some long-term modifications require a restaurant contractor’s experienced hand.

If you are considering remodeling your restaurant in the wake of COVID-19, there are a few areas you should focus on as part of the renovation. Our team of restaurant remodeling contractors put together the top updates they suggest for reducing the risk and slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Guiding Principles for Restaurant COVID Remodeling

The leading scientists at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) created guidelines for restaurants reopening their businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. You should keep in mind some key takeaways as you design your remodel, including the CDC’s discussed risk scenarios.

  • Lowest Risk: Foodservice limited to the drive-thru, delivery, take-out, and curbside pick-up.
  • More Risk: Drive-through, delivery, take-out, and curbside pick-up emphasized. On-site dining limited to outdoor seating. Seating capacity reduced to allow tables spaced at least 6 feet apart.
  • Higher Risk: On-site dining with indoor seating capacity reduced to allow tables spaced at least 6 feet apart and/or on-site dining with outdoor seating, but tables not spaced at least six feet apart.
  • Highest Risk: On-site dining with indoor seating. Seating capacity not reduced, and tables not spaced at least 6 feet apart.

You can discuss these risk scenarios with your restaurant contractors as you decide which renovations would ensure that your restaurant stays in the “Lowest Risk” category. Along with finding ways of remodeling your business arrangements to minimize risks, you should also encourage personal prevention tactics.

There are several actions restaurants can promote that will help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread. Some of these personal prevention practices include hand washing, staying home when sick, and wearing masks.

Besides encouraging those entering your business to wear masks and following other CDC guidelines, your restaurant should regularly clean and disinfect working areas. You should also encourage employees to stay home if they are feeling sick. Emphasizing the importance of these and other health-promoting behaviors will help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

There are also restaurant COVID renovations that you can implement to keep your business healthy during and after the pandemic.

Six Restaurant COVID Renovations to Prioritize in Your Remodel

1. Take-Out and Drive-Thru Accommodations

One of the main adjustments restaurants are making during the COVID-19 pandemic is adding take-out, drive-thru, and delivery options into their current business model. Adding these operations to your current plans may call for structure renovations, such as take-out windows or stations. Our restaurant contractors can help you optimize your layout design so that patrons can pick up their food as quickly and easily as possible.

2. Adjust for Social Distancing

Modifying your restaurant layout to ensure customers stay six feet apart is another way to minimize risk among your patrons and employees. Unfortunately, if you already have limited capacity, you could lose out on business, especially after rearranging your seating layout to comply with social distancing guidelines. You can reduce this loss by offering more take-out options or adding additional square footage to your dining area. The restaurant contractors at Cook Builders can help you maximize your layout better to suit your business and consumers’ needs.

3. Install Plexiglass

Another way you can prevent the spread of COVID-19 is by installing physical barriers, such as plexiglass sneeze guards and partitions, particularly in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart. These barriers can be useful in restaurant kitchens and at cash registers, host stands, or food pick-up areas where employees and patrons normally stand closer together.

4. Establish Hygiene Stations

Along with installing plexiglass, you can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 among patrons and employees by establishing hygiene stations throughout your restaurant. Some options to include in these stations include hand sanitizer, soap, paper towels, disinfectant spray, tissues, running water, and foot pedal trash cans. You should also consider posting signs to encourage patrons to use these items throughout their visit to your restaurant.

5. Add Outdoor Dining

As scientists continue studying this new disease, many believe that the risk of spreading it decreases while outside. For example, Kimberly Prather, Ph.D., an atmospheric chemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told Elemental that “The risk is definitely lower outdoors. The primary reason is there’s just such a large volume of clean air.”

Since the risk of spreading COVID-19 decreases when outside, you should consider adding outdoor dining to your current structure. This renovation will give your restaurant the ability to prioritize outdoor seating as much as possible. It will also allow your restaurant to stay open if your local government closes indoor dining options.

6. Improve Ventilation

Some scientific research proves that COVID-19 may be an airborne disease. You can reduce the risk of airborne transmission by improving the ventilation of your restaurant space. One of the main areas you should focus on is improving the engineering controls used in your current building ventilation system. You can also consult with our restaurant contractors about changing your heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems and equipment.

A few other ways the CDC recommends that restaurants improve ventilation include:

  • Increase total airflow supply to occupied spaces
  • Increase outdoor air ventilation, using caution in highly polluted areas.
  • Disable demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) controls reduce air supply based on occupancy or temperature during occupied hours.
  • Open minimum outdoor air dampers to reduce or eliminate HVAC recirculation, if practical. In mild weather, this will not affect thermal comfort or humidity. However, this may be difficult to do in cold, hot, or humid weather.
  • Improve central air filtration to MERV-13 or to as high as possible without significantly diminishing design airflow.
  • Inspect filter housing and racks to ensure appropriate filter fit and check for ways to minimize filter bypass.
  • Check filters to ensure they are within service life and appropriately installed.
  • Consider running the HVAC system at maximum outside airflow for 2 hours before and after busy times.

Remodel Your Restaurant with Cook Builders in Utah

Cook Builders understands the numerous challenges facing the foodservice industry, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Our restaurant contractors offer customized services to help you remodel your facilities to meet the needs of your customers and employees. Together, we can create a restaurant layout that puts the health of your growing business first.

As your Utah restaurant remodeling contractor, we will work with you on every step of the project, ensuring the best solutions for meeting all your needs. You can count on our quick turnarounds, clear communication, and quality work throughout your entire Cook Builders experience. Learn more about our restaurant & commercial construction services today.