Restaurants are among the most severely affected sectors by the coronavirus pandemic. While there may be some who have successfully transitioned to take-out and delivery, the challenge to ensure a healthy and comfortable workplace environment and protect the health of employees and customers is placing a big strain on owners as well as their building landlords. A number of studies have shown strong evidence that restaurants – especially those that are limited to indoor dining – are among the riskiest places for exposure to the virus. A research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in September 2020 found that adults that tested positive for COVID-19 were “twice as likely to have dined out in a restaurant in the two weeks prior to their infection.” Another study based on an outbreak in a South Korean restaurant demonstrated how the virus can travel farther than the prescribed six-foot social distancing radius if there is direct air flow in an enclosed space.
IAQ Hotspots in Your Restaurant
The quality of the air inside the restaurant has indeed become an essential factor to safely re-open, and stay open for business. Following the standard guidelines for hygiene and sanitation is no longer sufficient to ensure health and safety. A better understanding of your restaurant’s indoor air quality and where issues are most likely to occur is a good starting point to improve your IAQ.
- The Kitchen. This is the most obvious source of problems because of all the activities that are taking place here. Smoke and cooking oil from the grills, stoves, and ovens produce harmful emissions that linger in the air such as particles, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde.
- The Refrigeration Unit. Excess moisture in the air can lead to growth of mold and mildew.
- The HVAC System. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment greatly impacts your restaurant’s indoor air quality. Faulty air conditioning and ventilation not only contributes to discomfort but most importantly poor airflow which could increase the risk of virus survival and transmission.
- The Dining Area. Aside from occupancy that affects levels of carbon dioxide, temperature and humidity, it’s also important to consider the cleaning and disinfecting materials being used. Chemicals with high levels of volatile organic compounds release fumes and particles that can harm your employees and customers’ health.
Assessing the air quality in your restaurant and following practical guidelines prescribed by public health organizations and HVAC industry groups go a long way in providing confidence to your employees and customers. The focus should not be merely on complying with regulations but on creating a safe and healthy environment. One way to do this is with indoor air quality monitors that provide real-time data so you can identify specific issues and promptly address them. You can also share air quality and virus risk indicators to bring peace of mind to your employees and customers about the health of your restaurant spaces.
In the fight against coronavirus and the challenge to sustain the business, indoor air quality monitoring is an essential tool for restaurant owners and landlords who share the responsibility of creating healthy buildings for employees and customers.
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