Preparing and fulfilling takeout orders has probably become a critical part of your operations during the pandemic. According to the Food and Drug Administration, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. However, restaurants still need to take proactive steps to mitigate any risk and keep their customers safe.
Safe handling starts with your menu. Consider whether menu items can be held, transported and consumed at home safely and easily. Avoid options that are too temperature-sensitive or too delicate.
Food Safety Practices
Restaurant kitchens have always adhered to strict local public health guidelines and food safety best practices, but now, making those practices visible and doubling down on training and monitoring is crucial. Apply food safety best practices equally to both dine in and carryout items:
- Enforce frequent hand washing and the use of gloves and masks by kitchen and delivery staff
- Send anyone home who is sick
- Keep raw food away from cooked food
- Cook all food to the correct temperature
In addition, hold carryout food at its optimal safe temperature for as long as possible before it leaves your restaurant. Hot food should be held at 140 degrees F or more and cold food at 40 degrees F or less.
Cleaning and Disinfection
Although routine cleaning and disinfecting is already part of your normal routine, be sure you’re using EPA-approved cleaning chemicals from List N.
Takeout orders should follow the same sanitation guidelines as dine in orders, with a few other things to keep in mind:
- Keep carryout orders separated from potential contaminants and customers
- Provide hand sanitizer for delivery drivers and customers at the point of pick-up
- Provide sanitizing wipes for delivery bags
Carryout containers come in every shape and size, with materials ranging from biodegradable to plastic, paper, foam and more. Be mindful when selecting containers and choose something that fits with your menu items and your budget.
Other considerations when choosing take-out containers include:
- Keep multiple sizes on hand; using the smallest possible container maintains food integrity and saves money
- Use bags with handles for easy transportation and minimal spillage
- Consider the distance your food is traveling
- Keep container style in mind; it should match the style and menu of your restaurant
Food should never be outside the optimal safe temperature range for more two hours. To plan for this two-hour limit, consider how long food may be held at your restaurant without temperature controls, approximate maximum delivery time and enough time after delivery for your customers to prepare to eat.
It’s helpful to give your customers guidance in order to maintain food safety throughout the process. Provide clear instructions on how to serve, store and reheat menu items.
Follow these practices to ensure your carryout food remains safe and high in quality when it’s consumed.