Resources & Insights

The Three-Phase Path to Reopening Restaurants   

April 21, 2020

Paul Plaksin,
Insurance Advisor

Under the White House’s guidelines for restarting the economy, restaurants could begin to reopen in some locations in a matter of weeks, if not days.

But restaurants, among the hardest-hit businesses in the COVID-19 pandemic, understand they face some big hurdles in ensuring their customers are comfortable coming back.

To help customers feel safe, they know that at first at least, they’ll have to space them out more – as Starbucks Corp. has done in China. They’ll also have to put into place ways to minimize human contact, such as digital ordering and contactless payment, as well as consider expanding delivery.

What else? Well, buffet services may disappear. Workers’ may need to wear gloves and masks at all times. Utensils may be individually wrapped. Appetizers off shared plates may be discontinued. And temperature checks at the door could become commonplace.

Oh, and they’ll have to plan deep cleanings, regularly scheduled and using hospital-grade disinfectant.

The new White House guidelines spell out a three-phase process for reopening the national economy by giving states checkpoints to assess their readiness to lift business restrictions and social-gathering bans.

A drop in documented COVID-19 cases over a 14-day period must be seen before jurisdictions are able to move into the first phase.

Restaurants appear in each of the three recommended phases. The recommendations allow restaurants to gradually increase how many customers can occupy their dining rooms at any given time.

Phase one calls for maintaining “strict physical social distancing protocols.” That would mean keeping dine-in parties at least 6 feet apart and prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people.

Bars would remain closed during that phase, the White House said.

In phase two, the capacity cap rises to 50 people, and the social distancing measures in reopening restaurants can be relaxed to what the guidelines called “moderate protocols,” without defining that standard.

No capacity cap is set for phase three, with only limited social distancing protocols recommended. But getting to that phase would happen only after there’s no evidence of a rebound in COVID-19 cases.

In short, going out to eat is going to look different for a while.

Paul Plaksin is an insurance advisor in CCIG’s Commercial Lines department. Reach him at or at 720-330-7914.

CCIG is a Denver-area insurance, employee benefits and surety brokerage with clients nationwide. We do more than make sure you have the right policy. We help you manage your long-term cost of insurance with our risk and claims management expertise and a commitment to service excellence.

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