restaurants cold and flu season

Note: This article does not provide medical advice and is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.


From safe food handling practices to overall restaurant sanitation, there are a number of factors to take into account when handling people’s food. While restaurants always want to make sure their guests are being served the highest quality and safest foods possible, cold and flu season is an especially precarious time in the food industry. 

Utilizing these tips, tricks, and resources will help prevent the spread of germs and protect the health of everyone in your restaurant.

5 Restaurant Sanitation Tips to Minimize the Spread of Germs in Your Restaurant 

1. Wash Hands as Often as Possible

It sounds like a no-brainer, but any medical professional will tell you that proper handwashing is the number one way to prevent the spread of viruses. For any restaurant staff, it’s important to wash as often as possible for at least 20 seconds (the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice), making sure to scrub past your wrist, between fingers, and underneath your fingernails.

While handwashing is most effective, if soap and water aren’t readily available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the next best option. Keep some bottles available around the restaurant within reach of both staff and guests

Restaurant Hand Washing Tip

2. Minimize Close Contact Where Possible

While it’s impossible to completely avoid human contact in the restaurant industry, cold and flu season is a time to be more mindful of just how close you are getting. Avoid sharing drinks or food, even with loved ones, minimize handshaking where possible, and, if possible, avoid proximity to those who are sick. 

3. Encourage Staff To Stay Home When Sick

Restaurants will often find that their staff will continue to show up for work even when they have symptoms of the flu. Ensure that staff exhibiting flu symptoms stay home. It will prevent your other employees and your valued guests from becoming ill.

4. Ramp Up Your Disinfecting Routine

Take some time to do an additional run-through of your disinfecting routine each day and take extra care to wipe down common surfaces like handles, doorknobs, railings, light switches, your POS station, menus, and other frequently handled items. If you have the resources, installing some new hardware, like motion-sensored faucets and hands-free door openers, will also help prevent the spread of germs.

5. Strengthen Your Immune System

A strong immune system is better equipped to fight off infection and reduces the severity of symptoms. Running a restaurant is hard work and restaurateurs often make-do with very little sleep. Make sure you build a strong immune system by keeping active, getting all your vitamins and minerals, and getting at least eight hours of sleep every day – encourage your staff to do the same as well. 

What Restaurants Should Do During a Viral Outbreak

Every few years a virus that most people have never heard of will spread (such as SARS, avian flu or, more recently, the coronavirus) putting the general population on high alert. It’s important to reassure your customers that you are taking precautions to maintain the health and safety of your restaurant.

Reassure Your Guests

The fear of illness can cause people to overreact, especially when there is a lot of media attention and conflicting information. Assure your customers that you are taking all proper precautions to keep them safe by being transparent with your plan of action – but don’t go too overboard and contribute to the frenzy. 

Restaurant Sanitation Tip

Provide Additional Options to Customers

If customers are wary of eating out at a restaurant for extended periods of time, you may see a dip in sales. To help combat this, make sure your customers have a simple way of ordering online from your restaurant. A native online ordering option will help you maintain your restaurant’s current revenue and avoid high fees from third-party sites.

Rethink Time Off For Your Staff

With notoriously narrow margins, it is difficult for restaurateurs to provide paid time off for staff. When dealing with an illness outbreak or during a bad cold and flu season, it’s a good idea to temporarily extend or increase time off for your staff if they are showing symptoms of a serious illness. If a staff person is showing signs of illness during their shift, send them home.

Be Wary of Actions That Could Cause Alarm

Be proactive and prepared, but don’t do anything that could cause your guests to feel alarmed and uncomfortable in your restaurant. This includes behaviors such as:

  • Wearing gloves outside of the kitchen or in areas where it is generally not the norm
  • Wearing surgical masks anywhere in the restaurant, but especially front of house
  • Excessively wiping down or spraying disinfectants while guests are present

Remain Calm

It’s important to be prepared and take preventative measures when dealing with a viral illness while simultaneously not getting swept away in the hysteria that can occur. Always refer to the proper channels for the most accurate and up-to-date information, including:

Navigating times of illness, whether it be a typical cold and flu season or something more serious, is a fine balance as a business owner. The health and safety of staff and guests – the people who make your business what is it – is of utmost importance, yet you are also trying to maintain your livelihood. By following these guidelines and listening to the advice of medical professionals, it is possible to weather the storm.

Restaurant POS Cleaning Tip

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Written by   |  
Stephanie is a Providence, RI native and eight-year food industry veteran. As Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator she creates materials that help restaurateurs, managers, and service professionals succeed. When she's not writing, Stephanie is most likely traveling, cooking, or trying new restaurants.