After three months of frustration and financial stress for chefs, restaurant and coffee shop owners and their staff, most of our local eateries reopened this week for sit-down service. It won’t be dining out as usual, though, as stringent prevention protocols and guidelines have been implemented to reduce the risk of spreading the Coronavirus.
In line with President Ramaphosa’s announcement that the Alert Level 3 regulations would be amended in an effort to reactivate the tourism sector so that businesses and jobs could be saved, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane confirmed at a virtual press briefing on Friday afternoon that restaurants, casinos, cinemas and theatres, accredited and licensed accommodation (excluding Airbnb), and conference venues (for business purposes only) would be allowed to reopen on Monday 29 June.
However, restaurant customers will not be allowed to enjoy wine with their meal, as alcohol sales remain for off-site consumption only, Kubayi-Ngubane said. This is a heavy blow for many restaurateurs, as the sustainability of their businesses is largely dependent on the income generated by wine sales. When ordering take-out meals, however, customers will be able to order wine along with their food, to be enjoyed at home.
Local establishments have been hard at work to put all the necessary protocols in place to welcome patrons back to their favourite eateries. As a community, it is important for all of us to support these businesses and to cooperate with the measures they have implemented to ensure the safety of their staff and customers.
The directions for restaurants, fast-food outlets and coffee shops include keeping a daily record of all delivery agents and employees, who each have to be screened on arrival for shifts and on departing after shifts. The workplace, delivery transport, and containers have to be sanitised regularly and all employees have to be provided with the appropriate PPE, including face masks and hand sanitiser.
Customers will be sanitised and a screening questionnaire will be conducted before they can enter the premises. Anyone who is not wearing a cloth mask that covers the nose and mouth will not be allowed and customers have to wear masks at all times except when eating or drinking.
Restaurants have to maintain social distancing by demarcating in a visible way a distance of at least 1.5 metres from the point-of-sale serving counter towards the customer and between queueing customers, while seating capacity has to be spread out to enforce a distance of 1.5 metres between guests. Restaurants are advised to consider a reservation system to manage demand, and to help ensure capacity limits are adhered to.
No buffets are permitted and menus must be replaced with non-touch options or sanitised after each use. Tables have to be sanitised before and after each guest use and where possible, for instance while taking orders, waiting staff must stand at least a metre from tables.
Minister Kubayi-Ngubane encouraged South Africans to go out and support businesses like restaurants, but to do so responsibly. “We are taking it one step at a time. I understand the importance of opening up the tourism sector again, but we are not blind to the challenges we face. There is an aggressive pandemic and we need to find a point where we can flatten the curve of infections,” she said.