File picture: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
File picture: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

The good and bad of new guidelines for eating, drinking at a restaurant

By IOL reporter Time of article published Jun 26, 2020

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Going to a restaurant will not be the experience many had hoped it would be after months of being deprived of visiting their favourite establishment, but there are some pluses.

In a briefing on Friday, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane announced various guidelines restaurants would have to adhere to on opening on Monday.

Normally being hungry would be enough consideration to enjoy a meal, but the minister said before customers are allowed to enter for sit-down meals or to gamble, restaurants and casinos (which can operate at 50% capacity) would have to make them fill out a screening questionnaire. The "advanced" lockdown level 3 regulations have yet to be published.

A big reason why people would be excited to visit a restaurant is that it offers them the chance to meet friends and family – seeing as this is not allowed in your own home. When drawn on this oddity, Kubayi-Ngubane refused to comment.

So if customers pass the self-assessment and don't appear to have elevated body temperatures, they may be served. Not too surprisingly, the minister said they may remove their masks long enough to eat and drink.

But with many restaurants already being forced to close down, the fact that alcoholic beverages may not be served will affect their profit margins.

"In terms of alcohol, currently you would note that the regulations have not changed... you collect and you consume off-site," said Kubayi-Ngubane.

In terms of food service, no buffets will be offered to guests for self-service and menus must be replaced with non-touch options or sanitised after each use. 

Tables must be sanitised before and after each guest use. Where possible, and for instance while taking orders, waiting staff must stand at least one metre from tables. 

Restaurants have also been advised to use a reservation system to prevent crowding.

According to Kubayi-Ngubane, there will be business activity in hotels. Hotels, lodges, bed-and-breakfasts, timeshare facilities, resorts and guest houses must comply with the directions as previously announced. 

The government has decided not to relax travel rules in the country – no leisure travel will be allowed under “advanced” lockdown Level 3.

Only business travellers can stay over in accommodation like hotels and guest houses, as has been the case for some time. You are still only allowed “self-drive” day trips, and these may be only within your province of residence.

Travel over provincial borders is only allowed under certain strict conditions, for example for work, medical procedures, funerals or university.

All restaurants, fast-food outlets and coffee shops must comply with the following directions: 

* Keep a daily record of all employees, delivery agents and patrons; 

* Screen each employee and delivery person; 

* On arrival for shifts and on departing after shifts, regularly sanitise the workplace, delivery transport, containers, and follow cleaning procedures; 

* Provide employees with masks and sanitiser and ensure that every employee wears the relevant personal protective equipment;

* Ensure that delivery persons sanitise before and after handling card or cash payment; 

* Employees and delivery persons maintain a distance of at least one and a half metre apart at all times; 

* Demarcate an area for the collection of orders for delivery that is separate from the place where food is prepared; and

* Designated contactless pickup zone for customers whose orders are ready to be collected.

For sit-down restaurants, the following guidelines must be adhered to: 

* In terms of guests, a screening questionnaire must be conducted;

* Take precautionary measures to protect the person and other persons in the premises; 

* Not allow any person into the premises if that person is not wearing a cloth mask or homemade item that covers the nose and mouth or another appropriate item to cover the nose and mouth; 

* Ensure that customers and guests wear masks at all times while they are in their premises except when eating or drinking; 

* Ensure that all customers are sanitised before entering the premises;

* Demarcate in a visible manner a distance of a line at least 1.5m from the point of sale serving counter towards the customer;

* Ensure customers queue at least 1.5m apart behind each other or sideways;

* Spread seat capacity to enforce distancing of 1.5m between guests; and

* Consider a reservation system to manage demand, and help ensure capacity limits are adhered to.


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