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How to Plan for Improved Food Safety at Your Restaurant During COVID-19 Lockdown

Before COVID-19, just one food safety issue could ruin a restaurant’s reputation overnight. Now health and wellbeing is the top concern for consumers, so protecting food safety is going to be more important than ever before.

In April 2020, consumer credit reporter Experian surveyed more than 1400 consumers in the United States to find out what they were concerned about amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, personal health was top of the list, with 82% worried that COVID-19 would impact their family’s health and 77% saying they were worried about their own health.

In many ways this confirms expectations. Consumers are going to think about their safety much more consciously and frequently in everyday decisions and interactions compared to before the pandemic. And this is going to be the case for a long time to come, with some expecting a generational mental health impact from COVID-19.

Yet, despite this, there will always be businesses caught out by food safety issues. It’s just that now, more than ever, you’ll have to make sure your restaurant is not one of them.

The following advice looks at how foodservice business owners can plan ahead to improve food safety as Australia and New Zealand come out of lockdown.


Dust off your Food Safety Program/Food Control Plan

While post-lockdown policies and guidelines, like WA’s new hygiene measures, will develop over time, the importance of having a strong food safety ground game isn’t going to change.

So it’s a good idea to start with your food safety program (Aus*) or Food Control Plan (NZ**) by bringing forward what would have been an annual review.

  • Take a fresh look at the potential hazards through the context of COVID-19 and social distancing.
  • Start a new draft of the document to contain potential monitoring and control solutions that you can refine.
  • If you’re changing the scope of your business to delivery or another format, make sure the plan meets any specific requirements for that sector.
* If you run an Australian food business and don’t currently have a food safety program implemented, review Chapter 3 of the Food Safety Standards.
**Lower-risk food businesses in New Zealand can follow the set food safety framework of a National Programme instead of a custom Food Control Plan. Find out more from New Zealand Food Safety, which has waived fees for food businesses like restaurants and cafes that need to submit changes to the way they do business.


Look at How you could Streamline Compliance

An important thing to remember in this process is that there are gains to be made in time-management and efficiency as you review your processes.

Many restaurant owners will use COVID-19 lockdowns as the opportunity to discard old-fashioned processes like using paper-based food safety programs.

By using digital solutions for things like HACCP reporting, your kitchen team could find much more time to focus on food service and maintaining food safety. For example, SKOPE-connect allows users to quickly export temperature data from their smartphones while they work, saving kitchen staff from having to sit down and input the data into an email.

Review your Food Rotation System


Review your Food Rotation System

Assuming the kitchen is closed right now, a review of cornerstone processes like food rotation systems is probably going to be more like an informal survey of remaining staff or the kitchen personnel that you’re planning to bring back as soon as possible.

You could even use a free email survey platform to send them a survey they can reply to anonymously.

What you want to uncover are gaps in the system, instances in which labelling or tracking food and the date/time from prepping to plating was ever at risk.

Questions could include:

  • Has food always been clearly labelled? If not, give an example.
  • Have you ever been unsure when an ingredient was originally removed from its packaging? What could prevent this from happening again.


Design an Improved Cleaning Regime

The reality of what a working commercial kitchen looks and feels like is vastly different to the ideal. Stainless steel doesn’t stay stainless for very long. As fridge manufacturers, we know this because we see it in the condition of the fridges we repair and service.

Time is of the essence in every working kitchen, which can unfortunately place maintenance and cleaning regimes a very distant second to serving customers on the list of priorities.

However, lockdown is the perfect time to tackle this problem by designing a better cleaning regime. It’s also something you’ll have to consider in light of social distancing rules – answering the question of how you and your team can clean safely as well as effectively in the confined space of the kitchen. So it’s an issue that can’t be ignored.

This doesn’t necessarily mean your team will be spending more time cleaning in future. It’s more about prioritising the critical issues and learning from the feedback you gain by analyzing things like your food rotation and labelling. Can you work smarter, not harder?


  • How high-touch surfaces can be frequently disinfected while limiting impact on service and protecting food
  • How equipment – like your fridges – can be regularly checked and cleaned more efficiently
  • How the cleaning of food containers and utensils can be quality checked.
Check Key Kitchen Equipment


Check Key Kitchen Equipment

Food safety relies on critical equipment like refrigeration and blast chillers to preserve the food. Yet, a lot like food safety administration, equipment maintenance often suffers amid the tumult of a busy working kitchen.

Again, now is the time to fix that. By putting in place new responsibilities that make sure things like cleaning out the vents on your food storage fridge are done regularly, you can minimise the chances of equipment failure – reducing food safety risk and saving your business money in the long run.

If possible, dig out the manuals for your key equipment to find out the recommended maintenance actions. You can find SKOPE user manuals online here.

When preparing for the lockdown, you hopefully followed manufacturer advice on shutting down the equipment. Similarly, restarting the key equipment might not be a simple case of just flicking the “on” switch. You need to check the equipment before you use it.

How to Check Commercial Refrigeration Before Use

  1. When starting up fridges and freezers after they have been turned off for a period of time, allow the cabinet to pulldown to the required temperature before loading any product into it. This will minimise the energy consumed.
  2. Whilst the unit is pulling down to temperature, take the time to check that ventilation requirements are met and nothing has been stored on top of or in front of key areas that provide system airflow.
  3. Check the door seals and gaskets to ensure they seal correctly. A simple way of checking these is to place a torch inside and look for any light leaking around the perimeter of the door seal.
  4. When reloading the fridge or freezer, allow gaps around the product (especially in freezers) to allow effective cooling. It also assists with ensuring product is cooled evenly.
  5. With potentially reduced service levels or menus, only refrigerate items required for your current service needs. This makes it easier to safeguard food safety because you’ll have more room to leave gaps for even cooling (see point above) around the food that matters. If this means donating food you can’t use, choose a good cause in your area.

If you encounter an issue with your equipment, don’t waste any time before seeking manufacturer support. If you find an issue with a SKOPE product, contact SKOPE Customer Services.


Incorporate Front of House Social Distancing and COVID-19 Safety Measures into Your Planning

The eventual requirements at the state and federal level may differ depending on your location.

But when it comes to what post-lockdown dining might look like we can already point to places like Hong Kong, where restaurants are setting up systems for social distancing and have to contend with strict fines if they breach social distancing rules.

Alongside considering space and social distancing, it’s a good bet that restaurants will have to set-up a regular and frequent front of house cleaning regime at each table, potentially after each sitting. Consumers will want reassurance of cleanliness, so this will likely be critically important on a customer experience level.

Every opportunity you can give customers to enhance cleanliness will also play a part, with hand sanitizer likely to be an essential item both in both front and back of house operations for some time to come.

As lockdowns ease and become reduced, make sure to investigate your insurance. This isn’t just a case of making sure you have cost-effective and appropriate coverage. By establishing your potential liability if a customer becomes ill, you can also discover any gaps in the plans you have for your front of house safety regime.


  • Seated capacity limits with social distancing rules in place
  • How customers waiting to be seated will be managed
  • The maximum acceptable group booking size
  • What resources you need front of house to promote cleanliness and customer peace of mind
  • Your insurance cover and liability if a customer becomes ill


If you can achieve renewed confidence in your food safety, you can return to the market with a key asset worth promoting.

All consumers will be making purchasing decisions based on personal safety, which means the next steps for many restauranteurs will be figuring out how to communicate their food safety advantages effectively.

*While SKOPE uses reasonable efforts to include accurate and up to date information on the website, it makes no warranties or representations as to its accuracy or completeness. SKOPE is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. The information does not constitute any form of advice, recommendation or arrangement by SKOPE or its affiliates or any other party involved in the website and is not intended to be relied upon by users in making (or refraining from making) any decisions based on such information. You must make your own decisions on whether or not to rely on any information posted on the website.
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