Washington state Governor Jay Inslee yesterday released the rules restaurants must follow if they want to re-open for dine-in service. Among the new requirements, restaurants must keep a daily log of all customers’ names and contact information for contact tracing purposes related to the novel coronavirus.
The new regulations are part of the Phase 2 re-opening plan for counties in the state that have met certain COVID-19 case-related criteria. So far, eight counties in Washington have qualified.
Inslee released a 13-point document outlining new procedures restaurants in the state must follow, including:
- No bar seating
- No parties or tables bigger than five guests
- Only 50 percent capacity for both indoor and outdoor seating
- Tables must be six feet apart
- No buffets or salad bars
Additionally businesses are “strongly encouraged to require their customers to use cloth face coverings when interacting with their staff.” And though requiring staff to wear facemasks isn’t listed in the 13 points, “Cloth facial coverings must be worn by every employee not working alone on the jobsite unless their exposure dictates a higher level of protection under Department of Labor & Industries safety and health rules and guidance.”
The requirements listed above aren’t that surprising for anyone who’s been following the restaurant industry in the time of COVID-19. All these rules seem to be pretty standard for any dining room re-opening during this pandemic. The one bit that is extra is this rule:
If the establishment offers table service, create a daily log of all customers and maintain that daily log for 30 days, including telephone/email contact information, and time in. This will facilitate any contact tracing that might need to occur.
Washington isn’t the only place with this customer log requirement, Maine has something similar, as do the cities of New Orleans and Austin.
The first question that comes to mind is exactly how restaurants will go about doing this. Granted, there will be fewer people in a restaurant at any given time, but restaurants will need to implement protocols for getting the names and spellings (and contact info!) of every single member of your party or family (even the kiddos) at some point before or during your meal.
Keeping a database of customers seems like a prudent step towards stemming and second wave of the virus. But prudent isn’t necessarily the word I’d use to describe large swaths of our population right now. It’s not hard to see this issue becoming politically divisive for the protest set who might see this as treading on their freedoms.
If these types of daily log requirements spread, it’s not hard to imagine that restaurant software providers will offer it as an add-on to their existing service. As we’ve written before, companies like Toast are scrambling to demonstrate their value to cash-strapped restaurants just trying to survive.
Of course the bigger, more existential question for the restaurant industry right now is whether people will go to restaurants like they did before. If fear of the virus doesn’t keep customers away on its own, will facemasks and handing over personal information?