The Department of Tourism (DOT) has been busy lately implementing measures to reboot the tourism industry and providing guidelines to tourism businesses, which at the moment are slowly and cautiously getting back into operation amid the pandemic. 

The DOT has released health and safety guidelines for DOT-accredited restaurants and restaurants in DOT-accredited accommodation establishments.

The new normal for restaurants in time of coronavirus include dine-in acceptance of only 50 percent of their capacity, which translates to fewer tables and more uninhabited space inside the establishment.

The one meter space between customers should be strictly adhered to and tables should only accommodate half their usual capacities. 

Before they enter the restaurant, customers are required to disinfect their shoes on disinfectant mats at the entrance of the establishment. 

Customers not wearing face masks shall not be allowed to enter the restaurant. Their body temperature shall also be checked using a thermal scanner or thermometer gun upon entry at the restaurant. They are also required to fill out health declaration forms.

Face-to-face seating among diners isn’t allowed, unless there are transparent dividers (e.g. acrylic plastic, plexiglass, sneeze guards, etc.) in between.  

Handheld menus usually given to customers are no longer allowed, instead the menu should be displayed on the counter or other conspicuous area.

Signage or notices must be installed in conspicuous areas to remind customers to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or disinfect with 70-percent solution alcohol or alcohol-based hand sanitizer upon entering and leaving the restaurant.

Self-service and condiment stations will no longer be installed. Buffet and salad bars, where people tend to gather, are strongly discouraged. Other amenities, such as karaoke or library or play areas, are not allowed. 

As far as practicable, there shall be designated pick-up or take away zones for customers whose orders are for take-out.

Queue lines shall be clearly demarcated and signage shall be in place to ensure that guests queuing to order or pick-up food observe physical distancing. 

Cashless methods of payment with the use of money transfer applications is highly encouraged. If not viable, personnel shall hand and receive cash on a small tray to avoid mutual hand contact with customers.

The restaurant proprietor must ensure that employees fill out a health declaration form prior to every duty.

The guidelines also recommend restaurants to put up an alarm system for employee hand washing. An alarm system may be installed in a strategic location to remind employees to wash their hands rigorously with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds every 20 minutes. 

If soap and water are not readily available, 70-percent solution alcohol/alcohol-based hand sanitizer shall be used as an alternative.

Restaurant employees are strongly encouraged to observe proper hygiene and good grooming. They are required to wear food safety apparel and observe physical distancing.

Waiters, cashiers, or bussers, who deal directly with customers, are required to wash their hands frequently with soap and water at least every 20 minutes.

Restaurants are also strongly encouraged to deep clean their establishments, for example, toilet cleaning should be done every two hours, or surfaces must always be cleaned with disinfectant.