Austin’s Dine with Confidence
A volunteer-led coalition of business owners, known as Good Work Austin, created a program called Dine With Confidence in response to the state’s more lax COVID guidelines, which became a “bill of rights” for diners and restaurant workers.
The goal was to build consumer confidence, keep workers safe, and prevent restaurants from closing. The coalition set strict protocols around social distancing, sanitary measures, mask mandates, and other measures. It was their hope that the city would endorse the measures.
It then asked local businesses — fine dining restaurants, counter-service spots, coffee shops, and businesses that were only open for take-out — to sign the pledge.
The pledge requires businesses to:
- Add notes to websites and reservation sites stating that guests cannot enter if they are exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19
- Engage a medical professional to counsel employees on safe behaviors, both at work and away from work.
- Require employees to complete a health declaration to make sure they are not putting community members at risk
- Take staff temperatures daily and send home anyone with a 99.6º, or higher temperature
- Require staff who have experienced COVID-19 symptoms to remain at home until they can 1) receive a doctor’s note allowing them to return to work; 2) receive a negative result from a COVID-19 PCR test; 3) complete a 10-day self-quarantine
- Require staff, who were in close contact (within 6 ft for more than 15 mins) with an employee who tests positive for COVID-19, to quarantine for 7 days, and then obtain a negative PCR test
- Provide all staff with access to health care and paid sick leave
- Require all dine-in or other unmasked customers to provide their names and complete a Health Declaration
- Require all staff to wear masks while in the establishment. Require guests to wear masks, unless specifically excepted for active dining, or receiving other services that require them to be unmasked
- Enforce hand washing every 30 minutes for all staff
- Prevent staff from having any intentional physical contact, and make them constantly aware of the necessity of social distancing
- Dedicate certain employees to service guests and/or divide spaces and redefine roles to further separate employees and guests
- Make menus and similar information items online, display, single-use, or sanitize them after each use
- Place hand sanitation stations at the entrance and exit of the establishment and outside the restrooms
- Ensure proper ventilation of indoor spaces by cleaning and changing MERV13 filters monthly. Perform preventive maintenance quarterly for HVAC systems. Identify other measures to increase air flow
- Adopt all elements of the “Open Texas Minimum Standard Health Protocols” for facility, employees, and guests.
When creating the list, the coalition surveyed businesses to find out what they needed and what challenges they faced. It then purchased PPE in bulk and at lower cost. It also sourced architects, who offered pro-bono advice on safe dining formats. Where possible, the coalition drew on CDC guidelines. Where this was not available, it drew on local authorities and experts. The pledge was promoted to businesses and patrons through press and social media. 50 local businesses signed the charter, and numerous towns and cities from Raleigh, NC, to San Diego, and the Hudson Valley, asked for guidance to replicate it.