Updated at 12:30 p.m Saturday: Revised to include additional comments from the Texas Restaurant Association.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Friday he would ease some coronavirus restrictions, such as allowing state parks to reopen, permitting retail shops to reopen through “to-go” service, and letting health care providers perform some elective procedures.
The reopening of restaurants, however, did not make the cut.
In response, the Texas Restaurant Association, or TRA, released recommendations on how restaurants in the state could reopen for dine-in service. The TRA will share the plan with elected officials, and hopes that restaurants will be allowed to reopen soon.
“Texas restaurants are struggling to survive from one day to the next, and so we were hopeful for greater clarity from Governor Abbott about safely reopening our restaurant dining spaces today,” the association said in a written statement. “However, we appreciate the Governor’s creation of the Statewide Strike Force to Open Texas, and we will work closely with these experts to assure our leaders that Texas restaurants are ready to serve our communities while keeping everyone safe.”
The initiative, dubbed the Texas Restaurant Promise, details how eateries could reopen, while ensuring the health and safety of employees and patrons.
Some of the recommendations in the plan include: Allowing or requiring employees to wear gloves or masks; limiting tables to 10 or fewer guests; using signage or floor markings to encourage social distancing; and conducting health surveys with employees before each shift.
Restaurants would also be responsible for providing hand sanitizer or hand-washing stations upon entry and exit; sanitizing common areas and surfaces regularly; sanitizing tables and chairs after each use; providing disposable utensils and menus or disinfecting them after every use.
The plan does not detail whether restaurants would be required to limit their capacity.
“We encourage restaurants to follow the rules and guidelines of the eventual phased opening by their local county and city leadership,” said Anna Tauzin, the TRA’s chief revenue and innovation officer. “What we are putting out there is a plan to show officials, employees, and guests that restaurants are committed to safety, just as we’ve always been.”
In an email, Tauzin later clarified that if officials were to require restaurants to limit their capacity, the TRA would ensure businesses complied.
“We would follow whatever phased plan the authorities come up with,” Tauzin said.
The TRA’s plan does recommend that, when able, restaurants should use physical barriers to separate tables, booths and bar stools.
Under the plan, customers who have symptoms of COVID-19 or been exposed to the virus are asked to use delivery options. Customers with underlying health conditions are asked to do the same.
Texas is not the only state to consider reopening restaurants. Earlier this week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined a plan to ease some restrictions that have been in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. Newsom said restaurants could potentially reopen with fewer tables, disposable menus, servers wearing gloves, and businesses could check the temperature of those entering a building.
While Texas restaurants have been allowed to stay open for carry out or delivery service, more than 1 million restaurant employees have been affected by the closure of dine-in service, according to the TRA.