Restaurant Groups Release Free Training Programs on Indoor Dining Safety & Mask Enforcement

May 24, 2021

New Training Programs Based on Safety First, the National Indoor Dining Safety Guidelines Released in April 2021 by the Aspen Institute’s Food & Society Program; Training Programs Provide Guidance on Mask Wearing Amid Confusion Created by Recent CDC Recommendations


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Washington, DC, May 24, 2021 – As cities and states across the country lift capacity restrictions on indoor dining and the recent CDC announcement regarding masks causes confusion about how restaurants and other small businesses should enforce the rules, the Aspen Institute’s Food and Society Program is partnering with leading restaurant industry leaders to release two free online training initiatives — one for restaurant workers, the other for public health professionals — to promote safe indoor dining environments, including new guidance on mask enforcement. These training programs are based on the first national indoor dining safety guidelines, Safety First, released in April in partnership with a group of restaurant industry leaders and organizations.

“The CDC’s allowing fully vaccinated people to go without masks indoors has put enforcement decisions squarely in the hands of local health departments and individual business owners,” said Corby Kummer, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Food and Society Program. “For restaurant owners, particularly, that means understanding the basics of transmission and how best to continue to protect workers and diners when no reliable proof of vaccination exists.” The new Safety First trainings offer invaluable sector-specific guidance for health officials and restaurant operators to keep their workers and guests safe in the face of varying vaccination and transmission levels around the country. Safety First’s trainings, Kummer says, will “offer clarity at a moment when the restaurant industry urgently needs it.”

The national guidelines released in April, called Safety First: Protecting Workers and Diners as Restaurants Reopen, were developed by the Food and Society Program at the Aspen Institute, with support from Food@Google, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, and in collaboration with José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, the James Beard Foundation, the National Restaurant Association, the Independent Restaurant Coalition, and One Fair Wage. Through these partners, Safety First was distributed to over a half million restaurant workers and operators across the country.

The training curricula will highlight the disproportionate burden of the pandemic on workers of color and restaurants owned by people of color, as well as the importance of reopening safely for communities that have been historically marginalized. The training curricula include video modules, pre -and post-training assessments, and certificates to be issued upon successful completion of training modules. Food & Society also plans to offer a minimum of three to four live virtual Q&A sessions with trainers to allow participants to ask questions, engage in dialogue, and network with colleagues across the country. Trainings will be offered free-of-cost to all participants and will be available in both English and Spanish.

Through these trainings, the Food and Society program will establish stronger and more specific support of the food-service sector by aiding public health officials who have been under-resourced and will inform restaurant operator education focused squarely on commercial kitchens and restaurants of all sizes. This will be particularly useful to independent operators who have not had unified or clear guidance and are navigating a rapidly changing health landscape while facing the daily challenges of reopening businesses and maintaining their financial health, keeping in mind that the health of restaurant workers and customers takes first priority.

The CDC Foundation and The Kresge Foundation are generously supporting the development and implementation of the Safety First training programs. Rouxbe Online Culinary School will develop the curriculum and implement the training for the restaurant industry. The Public Health Foundation will develop the curriculum and implement the training for public health professionals.

Key Safety First advisors and collaborating organizations will continue their involvement and support of the training program. These include: Mitchell Davis, Founder and Principal of Kitchen Sense, LLC; Dr. Sam Dooley, Principal Author of Safety First; Russell Jackson, Chef-Owner, Reverence, Advisor, Independent Restaurant Coalition; Frank Lavey, VP Global Operations, Hyatt Hotels Corporation; Jenny Lucas, Senior VP, Operations, Loews Hotels & Co; Doug Mass, President, Cosentini; as well as organizations such as One Fair Wage, National Restaurant Association, Feeding America, James Beard Foundation, and World Central Kitchen.

More information on the Safety First guidelines can be found at


Food and Society at the Aspen Institute brings together leaders and decision-makers in the food and beverage industry and the public health community—scientists, nutritionists, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, and food makers of all kinds—to find solutions to production, health, and communications challenges in the food system. It is currently working on a major initiative to broaden the work on the Food Is Medicine movement, creating a Research Priorities Action Plan that will be a road map for future funding that will extend current work to rural and underserved areas. The goal is for people of all income levels to eat better and more healthful diets—and to enjoy them bite by bite. Find executive director Corby Kummer on Twitter @ckummer.

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