As the coronavirus cases pass 100,000 worldwide and 230 cases in the U.S., as reported by CNN, businesses — and especially foodservice providers — are working to set protocols to keep people safe.
“The coronavirus/COVID-19 scare affects many types of companies, and in particular those in the food industry. From restaurants to catering and delivery, food and beverage industry companies should take precautionary measures,” advised Michael Droke, labor and employment partner at international law firm Dorsey & Whitney.
“Food safety and illness transmission create major brand risk, especially to restaurants or food brands. Food safety laws create strict, joint-and-several liability for all companies in the distribution chain (“food chain”). Therefore, even illness risks caused by other food providers will affect those “down the chain” of distribution,” Droke said.
Droke warned that retailers and restaurants are expected to see a significant drop in customer traffic as the public self-quarantines.
“This business interruption will not be covered by insurance,” he said. “Many companies are imposing travel and other business restrictions. This also drops restaurant customer traffic.”
He added that in some cities like Seattle and Boston, retailers and restaurants must abide by scheduling ordinances that penalize them if they change employee schedules with little notice or require workers to go home early.
“Those ordinances have some exceptions where the entire restaurant closes, but often impose a penalty on restaurants that send just specific workers home early. Restaurants want to encourage sick workers to stay home, but also may become significantly short-staffed if a larger number of workers are affected. Unionized restaurants may be required to comply with scheduling requirements in collective bargaining agreements that further limit flexibility,” He said.
Droke recommended that convenience stores and other foodservice providers take the following steps:
-Recommit to food safety: https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/index.html
-Recommit to personal hygiene: https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/ehsnet/plain_language/food-worker-handwashing-restaurant-factors.htm
-Restaurants should advertise specific steps they are taking to address the issue and ensure proper hygiene is done.
-Develop a response plan if the scare either expands or hits their particular region.
-Develop a staffing plan to handle unexpected drops in customer demand or changes in server availability.
For more on our COVID-19 coverage: https://cstoredecisions.com/categories/covid-19/.