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FAQs, Best Practices for Restaurant and Food Establishments

Post Date:05/18/2020 7:00 AM


From the Florida Department of  Business & Professional Regulation


Q: May a restaurant or food establishment licensed by DBPR under Chapter 509, Florida Statutes, increase their outside food service seating capacity to offset inside seating restrictions due to social distancing requirements?
The Division of Hotels & Restaurants will allow an establishment to add food service seating outside, provided the establishment strictly adheres to social distancing requirements currently in effect. The establishment should also consult with their local government agencies to ensure compliance with any applicable local regulations.

Q: During the effect of the Executive Order 20-123, how should restaurants calculate the number of seats allowed inside the establishment? How should restaurants calculate 50% of the indoor seating capacity?
The number of seats available to customers inside the establishment will be determined by the number of seats listed on the establishment’s DBPR food service license, divided by half (50%). For example, a restaurant licensed for 80 seats may seat up to 40 guests inside the establishment at any given time, provided that the establishment also adheres to all social distancing requirements that are currently in effect. Outside seating must also adhere to social distancing requirements and any applicable local regulations.

Q: Does an establishment’s number of employees factor into the number of patrons who can be served within the indoor seating area under the provisions of this order?
No. For example, a restaurant licensed for 80 seats may seat up to 40 guests inside the establishment at any given time, without regard to the number of employees present at the establishment.

Q: Are restaurants with bar counters that also offer customer dining prohibited from allowing seating at the counter?
Yes. Executive Order 20-123 expressly directs that bar counters are to remain closed to seating. However, booths, high top tables, or other seating located in an area in the vicinity of the bar counter or in the bar room of an establishment remains available for seating and service of patrons.
Q: Are food establishments located within entertainment venues (such as bowling alleys, movie theaters, and family recreation centers) allowed to operate, provided that the establishments adhere to the interior seating limitations and social distancing requirements currently in effect?
Yes. Food establishments within these venues may operate and should ensure strict adherence to the social distancing and sanitation requirements within the dining areas.

Q: May a food establishment host a reception or other gathering comprised of more than 10 individuals?
Yes, provided the establishment seats its guests in groups of no more than 10 individuals per table.

Q: May a licensed location continue to utilize outside space in order to comply with social distancing requirements?
Yes, so long as the use of outside space is compliant with local regulations and requirements.


Q: What precautions are recommended for proper separation between guests while seated?
Establishments may redesign seating arrangements to ensure at least six (6) feet of separation from table to table. If tables, chairs, booths, or other seating areas cannot be moved, signage or other markings may be used to show that the area is not available for service. Where social distancing of tables is not readily feasible at a six-foot distance, licensed businesses also may utilize a hard-surface partition or other impermeable physical barrier to minimize risks of exposure between guests.

Q: Are food service employees currently required to wear face masks or equivalent face coverings while working with food?
Face coverings are not currently required by DBPR for food service employees. The use of face coverings is strongly encouraged in work environments where consistent social distancing is not feasible. In localities where face coverings are required by a local government, employees should adhere to local requirements as directed. Businesses also may independently choose to require employees to wear face coverings during work shifts.


Effective May 18, the following measures are mandatory for restaurants and food establishments:

    -- Limit indoor service of patrons to no more than 50 percent of the seating capacity of the indoor dining area.
    -- Manage the service of patrons at outdoor seating with adherence to appropriate social distancing with tables separated by at least six feet.
    -- Restrict parties seated at a single table to 10 or fewer persons.
    -- Maintain social distancing in the seating and service of patrons in all areas of the restaurant, including:
           * a minimum of six feet between parties or use of a hard-surface partition that appropriately separates parties; and
           * not permitting patrons to congregate in bar areas or waiting areas.
   -- Wash, rinse, and sanitize food contact surfaces, dishware, utensils, and beverage equipment after each use.
   -- Frequently disinfect surfaces repeatedly touched by employees or patrons such as door knobs, equipment handles, and checkout counters. Disinfect table surfaces, arms rests, menus, and other items utilized by customers at each turn of service.
   -- Adhere to all existing provisions of the 2017 FDA Food Code as adopted by the Florida Division of Hotels & Restaurants.
   -- Employees who appear to have symptoms upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day must immediately be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors, and sent home.


Effective May 18 the following best practices are recommended for restaurants and food establishments:
   -- Provide hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap and water, or similar disinfectant for use of customers in the dining area.
   -- Remove all unnecessary, frequently touched items like table buzzers, service menus, magazines, newspapers, and any other unnecessary paper products and décor from customer areas.
   -- Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks, to promote social distancing in high-traffic areas of the establishment.
   -- Promote reservations or call-ahead seating to manage spacing effectively in restaurant.
   -- Limit access to buffets, salad bars, and beverage service stations to service only by employees.
   -- Encourage third-party delivery staff to wait outside or in non-congested areas practicing social distancing guidelines when picking up delivery orders.
   -- Monitor and implement best practices for food safety at restaurants and retail food stores as published and updated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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