Safety First

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Safety First: Protecting Workers and Diners as Restaurants Reopen

Safety First Guidelines COVID Pledge Diner Code of Conduct Ventilation Basics Toolkit: English Toolkit: Spanish Toolkit: Mandarin Social Media Resources

As many cities and states eased restrictions on indoor dining, and with the full return of outdoor dining in many parts of the country, a group of restaurant industry leaders and organizations met weekly for the better part of a year to release the first national safety standards for dining, simplifying and streamlining city, state and federal guidelines to ensure a safe working and dining environment for employees and customers.

The new national guidelines, Safety First: Protecting Workers and Diners as Restaurants Reopen, were developed by the Food and Society Program at the Aspen Institute, with support from 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 has been distributed to over a half million restaurant workers and operators across the country.

Safety First features several one-page summaries and infographics that distill the most essential information for restaurants around the country to display.

  • The Diner Code of Conduct lays out the expectations of guests while dining inside to maintain a safe indoor dining environment.
  • Our Covid Pledge lays out the expectations of restaurant operators and workers to create a safe indoor dining environment.
  • The Ventilation Guidelines gives restaurants practical, affordable, and accessible guidance on ventilation systems and best practices.

In addition to the comprehensive and detailed Safety First guidelines, Food & Society at the Aspen Institute is fortunate to be a working partner with the CDC Foundation in its Food Worker COVID-19 Health Safety Toolkit, launched in July of 2021, to support the frontline food industry workers who continue to work while facing the constantly shifting Covid-19 pandemic daily in the workplace. We’ll be incorporating key insights about personal health and vaccination and mental health resources into our new online trainings based on Safety First, but invite you to look at and use the Health Safety Toolkit, here.

“Restaurant operators and workers have been working around the clock to bring their restaurants back—and finally they’re seeing that they have a chance. But it’s been next to impossible for them to keep up with complicated, constantly changing procedures and protocols recommended by city, state, and federal authorities,” says Corby Kummer, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Food and Society Program. “So we set out to create one practical, streamlined, easy-to-use set of guidelines that will guarantee best practices for keeping both workers and diners safe as restaurants reopen.”

Anchored primarily by Dr. Sam Dooley, a retired infection-control specialist who spent 32 years at the Centers for Disease Control, Safety First follows the latest guidance from the CDC and leading members of the Big Cities Health Coalition, and state and city health departments. Uniquely, it was also developed in partnership with the Safety First Executive Committee and Advisors, which the Food and Society Program at the Aspen Institute formed during the initial weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, and includes leading chefs and restaurant owners, nationally recognized ventilation engineers with decades of experience designing restaurants, safety heads of international hotel companies, leaders of Feeding America, and others.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, World Central Kitchen has worked closely with over 2,500 restaurants around the country with our Restaurants for the People program, and I am very proud that the Safety First meal preparation guidelines that we created last year have empowered each and every one of them to keep their teams and the communities they’ve served healthy and safe,” said José Andrés, Founder of World Central Kitchen. “And now, with Aspen and Corby leading a great coalition of partners, we have established updated guidelines as restaurants are reopening to the public, thinking of the entire restaurant ecosystem – back of house, front of house, and guests – to make sure that everyone can enjoy restaurants in a safe, healthy way.”

The guide’s core infographics – the Diner Code of Conduct, Our Covid Pledge, and the Ventilation Guidelines are also available in Spanish, which can be downloaded here.

Safety First: Protecting Workers and Diners as Restaurants Reopen follows the release of the Food and Society Program’s first guide, Safety First: Serving Food and Protecting People During Covid-19, published in May of 2020, which offered practical information and guidelines for back-of-house operations amidst the beginning of the public health crisis.