Public Health

Kitchen Confidence

July 1, 2020  • Institute Staff

Give NowSince the beginning of the pandemic, people have been ordering more meals from restaurants for takeout and delivery. And restaurants have hired back staff to prepare and deliver meals for health-care workers—“feeding the frontlines.”

One thing was missing: realistic, authoritative guidance on how kitchens should operate during a pandemic. Even months after lockdown began, most kitchens operated without a clear and cohesive guide to best practices.

Enter the Food and Society Program, which recognized that the industry needed authoritative and practical guidance—and quickly. With support from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund and help from leading infection-control experts, the program released Safety First: Serving Food and Protecting People During Covid-19, a report with detailed, frequently updated recommendations that touch on every point of the food-preparation process. “Our goal is to tell chefs, managers, and restaurant owners how their procedures need to change in the era of Covid-19,” says Corby Kummer, the executive director of Food and Society. “These guidelines are first and foremost about keeping workers safe.”

Co-presented with World Central Kitchen, the James Beard Foundation, and Off Their Plate, Safety First has been downloaded hundreds of times and is available in full in Spanish and in excerpts in Chinese. The New York Times and Eater prominently featured it; José Andrés, the founder of World Central Kitchen, and Pete Wells, a restaurant critic at The New York Times, tweeted enthusiastic recommendations.

As state and local governments scrambled to set rules for how and when restaurants could and should reopen, the rules for keeping servers safe became an urgent need. Food and Society went to work again, convening a working group of leading industry voices, architects, ventilation engineers, and bigcity health department officials to work through best practices of a Diner’s Code of Conduct and a Covid-preparedness grading system extending the familiar and trusted food-safety grades. The goal remains safety—and, in a world with too little of it, confidence.