Safety First

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Safety First: Protecting Workers and Diners as Restaurants Reopen


As many cities and states ease 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 have released the first national safety standards for dining in an attempt to simplify and streamline city, state and federal guidelines and ensure a safe working and dining environment for employees and customers.

The new national guidelines released today, 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 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 will be 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.

“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.

“We at the James Beard Foundation see Safety First as a common sense guide for restaurants to help them maneuver and operate after a year of crisis,” says Clare Reichenbach, CEO of the James Beard Foundation. “Throughout the pandemic, our Open for Good campaign has been providing critical resources to help independent restaurants survive, build the capacity to return stronger, and thrive for the long term, and we’re proud to have Safety First in our toolkit.”

“Since the onset of the pandemic, the National Restaurant Association has been working with federal, state and local officials, along with restaurant operators of every type and size to identify and implement solutions that keep restaurant employees and guests safe,” said Tom Bené, President & CEO, National Restaurant Association. Safety First brings together the critical elements of ventilation, health, and safety to further assist restaurant operators and guests as they fully reopen and resume serving their communities.”

“One Fair Wage is proud to partner with the Aspen Institute to help provide guidelines to keep our workers and our communities safe,” said Saru Jayaraman, Founder of One Fair Wage.

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.

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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.

World Central Kitchen (WCK) was founded in 2010 by Chef José Andrés. WCK uses the power of food to nourish and strengthen communities through times of crisis and beyond. WCK has transformed the field of disaster response to help devastated communities recover and establish resilient food systems. Since its founding, WCK has served over 18 million meals to those impacted by natural disasters and other crises around the world in countries including Albania, The Bahamas, Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Mozambique, Spain, Venezuela, and the United States. Learn more at WCK.org.

Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of 15.6 million employees. We represent the industry in Washington, D.C., and advocate on its behalf. We sponsor the industry’s largest trade show (National Restaurant Association Show); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF’s ProStart). For more information, visit Restaurant.org and find us on Twitter @WeRRestaurants, Facebook and YouTube.

The James Beard Foundation promotes Good Food For Good™. For more than 30 years, the James Beard Foundation has highlighted the centrality of food culture in our daily lives. Through the variety of industry programs that educate and empower leaders in our community, the Foundation has asserted the power of food to drive behavior, culture, and policy change. The organization is committed to giving chefs a voice and the tools they need to make the world more sustainable, equitable, and delicious for everyone. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the James Beard Foundation launched the Open for Good campaign to ensure that independent restaurants not only survive, but that the industry is able to rebuild stronger than before. For more information, subscribe to the digital newsletter Beard Bites and follow @beardfoundation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. The James Beard Foundation is a national not-for-profit 501©(3) organization based in New York City.