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COVID-19 Guidelines for Re-Opening your Food Establishment

Updated April 7, 2021:

Effective Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., the government is issuing a province-wide Stay-at-Home order requiring everyone to remain at home except for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services (including getting vaccinated), for outdoor exercise, or for work that cannot be done remotely. The COVID-19 Response Framework (colour-coded zones) is paused during this time. Find more details in the news release.

As of Saturday, April 3, 2021, at 12:01 am, we are in a Shutdown. The province-wide emergency break is expected to stay in place for at least four weeks. Find more details in the news release.

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This guide provides you with the information you need to reopen your restaurant, or other food premise, after being closed, limited to take-out and delivery only, or restricted to outdoor dining. This guidance is not intended to supersede the regulations in place by the Government of Ontario.

Operators are responsible for providing an environment that minimizes the risk of transmission of COVID-19. Operators should also refer to guidance from the Ministry of Labour. This Ministry guidance supplements, but does not replace, guidance from PHU about food safety, or the Ontario Food Premises Regulation.

There is no requirement for restaurants to be inspected by PHU before reopening. However, if you have a new restaurant, you must contact PHU before opening to arrange for an inspection.

Note: Nightclubs are not yet safe to open, except for the purpose of serving food or drinks to patrons in accordance with the conditions that apply to restaurants and bars.  

It is important to recognize that the COVID-19 situation is evolving very quickly. Please refer to our COVID-19 webpage to stay up-to-date on the latest information.

Food Premises Pre-Opening Checklist

The following are recommended actions to be taken prior to opening your establishment for business:

  • Create a safety plan, post it in a place where workers and patrons will see it and have it available upon request (for example, to inspectors or law enforcement officers).
  • Check the condition of all food and discard expired or otherwise unfit products.
  • Wash, rinse and sanitize all food contact surfaces.
  • Ensure hand washing stations are adequately supplied and functional.
  • Clean and disinfect all non-food contact surfaces, including high touch areas such as door handles, touchscreens and equipment knobs.
  • Check thoroughly for signs of pest activity. Consider contracting a licenced pest management company prior to opening to ensure there is no infestation.
  • Clean, sanitize and ensure all hot and cold holding facilities/equipment are functional.
  • Ensure dishwashing machines are functioning adequately.
  • Ensure adequate amounts of sanitizers and detergents are available for manual dishwashing.
  • Ensure garbage storage areas are clean and of adequate size for the needs.
  • Clean and disinfect washrooms, and ensure adequate supplies are available.
  • Ensure faucets are working properly and flush pipes for at least five minutes.
  • Consider training staff on new procedures/requirements.

Safety Plans

The safety plan will:

  • Describe measures/procedures that have been or will be implemented in the business, place, facility, or establishment to reduce spread of COVID-19.
  • Be in writing and made available to any person for review on request.
  • Be posted in a visible place to come to the attention of those working at, or attending, the location.

Screening

How to perform staff screening:

  • Actively screen every person who works at the business or organization before they enter the premises. Use the Screening Tool for Workplaces.
  • Prevent staff from working if:
    • They show any signs and/or symptoms of COVID-19 before, or during their shift;
    • They have come in close contact with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days, or;
    • They have travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days.
    • If staff experience symptoms of COVID-19 during their shift, they should return home, self-isolate and call the local Assessment Centre, their primary care provider or the Porcupine Health Unit at 1-800-461-1818.
  • Employers must ensure that their employees are aware of the benefits/pay available to them, should they need to self-isolate due to COVID-19.
  • In addition to the above requirements, consider updating your business policies for managing staff member absences and for backfilling shifts in case of absence.

How to perform customer screening:

  • Post signs at all entrances to the premises of the business or organization, in a conspicuous location visible to the public, that inform individuals on how to screen themselves for COVID-19 prior to entering the premises.

Mask Requirements

Effective October 3, 2020, the Province updated the Ontario Regulation 364/20 that mandates the use of masks in all public indoor settings across Ontario which includes workplaces.

Transparent physical barriers can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, when used properly with other public health measures such as wearing a face covering, maintaining two (2) meters distance, frequent hand washing and proper cough/sneeze etiquette. A transparent physical barrier (i.e. plexiglass) does not replace the need for a face covering or mask.

A face covering or mask is required when:

  • Two (2) meters distance is not maintained between coworkers on the same side of the plexiglass OR opposite sides of the plexiglass;
  • A staff member is leaving their personal workspace; and
  • Staff is working in an indoor area that is accessible to the public.

Remember, transparent physical barriers must be cleaned and disinfected frequently.

Personal Protective Equipment, Including Eye Protection

  • The employer must determine what PPE is required and ensure that it is worn by workers.
  • Educate staff on the proper use and disposal of masks and PPE.
    • Gloves are not a substitute for proper hand hygiene, as they do not guarantee that foods or surfaces are not contaminated. Gloves should always be worn when a staff member or volunteer handling food has a break in their skin or has a bandage that is covering a wound. In the event you should need to or choose to wear gloves:
    • Wash your hands properly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before you put on gloves.
    • Do not touch your face or mask with your gloves on.
    • Do not touch personal items, such as a cell phone, while wearing gloves. Throw the gloves out in a closed garbage bin right away after use and wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Do not re-use gloves that are made for one use
  • Protective eyewear is required if a worker needs to come within 2 metres of another person who is not wearing a face covering, and not separated by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier.

Physical Distancing and Line Management

  • Ensure physical distancing of at least 2 metres between staff and customers.
  • Establishments must take appropriate measures to ensure physical distancing of at least 2 meters between patrons from different tables, unless separated by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier.
  • Modify the layout and use signage to encourage one-way traffic flow and to ensure enough space is provided for staff and customers to maintain physical distancing.
  • Ensure enough space for people in high traffic areas and places where people may gather.
  • Identify areas where crowding and bottlenecks are common, such as lobbies, washrooms, and use staff or barriers to redirect people who may gather in these areas.
  • Monitor and manage lines within and outside the facility.
  • Post physical distancing signage at all entrances, service desks or other high visibility locations.
  • Place visual/textural markers spaced 2.6 metres apart (e.g., tape on the floor, pylons, signs) to encourage physical distancing and to guide customers.
  • Physical distancing must be maintained for people lined up outside of the establishment.
  • Encourage the use of masks/face coverings for customers waiting/lining-up outside (masks are mandatory indoors).
  • Assign staff to monitor lines and to make public announcements reminding customers to keep at least 2 metres apart.
  • Consider pre-order/pick-up/delivery models to limit interactions, if possible or required for your business.
  • Consider reservations only.
  • Remove buffets and self-serve locations.
  • Reconfigure break rooms/areas and eating areas for staff to physically distance.
  • Discourage staff from congregating during lunch and break times, where physical distancing of 2m/6ft cannot be maintained.

Maintain logs for customer and staff contact information

  1. record the name and contact information of every patron that enters an indoor or outdoor dining area in the establishment, unless the patron temporarily enters the area to place, pick up or pay for a takeout order;
  2. maintain the records for a period of at least one month; and
  3. only disclose the records to a medical officer of health or an inspector under the Health Protection and Promotion Act on request for a purpose specified in section 2 of that Act or as otherwise required by law.

    *Remember to maintain privacy when collecting and storing information.
  • Keep a log of your staff’s contact information and dates and times they worked. Porcupine Health Unit will use this list to notify staff and customers if there is a case with COVID-19 at your establishment while they were there.

Staff Training and Education

  • It is essential that all staff members receive training and education on all modified and new policies, procedures and practices prior to working directly with patrons and colleagues. Porcupine Health Unit recommends that employers pay close attention to ensuring that all staff working have current training on and are familiar with:
    • Active screening for signs and symptoms of COVID-19
    • Actions to take if they experience symptoms of illness
    • Proper use of approved cleaning and disinfecting products
    • Cleaning protocols to sanitize reusable items between uses
    • Procedures for environmental cleaning
    • How to properly wear and use masks and face coverings
    • How to properly use gloves, face shields and other personal protective equipment if required by the employer
    • Maintaining physical distance of at least 2 metres when possible.
    • Frequent handwashing using the correct technique, and to avoid touching face.

While Open to the Public

  • In the Yellow zone, no more than six people may be seated together at a table in the establishment.
  • Prevent patrons showing symptoms of COVID-19 from entering and post signage informing patrons that they may not enter if symptomatic.
  • Ensure patrons wait for a table outdoors and do not enter a patio dining space while waiting, if present.
  • Ensure patrons maintain physical distance while waiting to be seated.
  • Reinforce the requirement that a mask or other face covering must be worn on the premises, except when eating or drinking.
  • Clean and sanitize tabletops between sittings.
  • Maintain cleaning and sanitation logs.
  • Consider opening doors and/or windows to increase ventilation for any indoor operations.
  • Follow provincial regulations regarding singing, dancing, performance, serving alcohol and hours of operation.
  • Keep music volume low enough so that patrons can speak without needing to raise their voice or lean in to be heard.
  • Ontario Regulation 364/20 : Rules for Areas in Stage 3 states patrons must be seated at all times in any area of the establishment in which food or drink is permitted except, while entering the area and while moving to their table, while placing or picking up an order, while paying for an order, while exiting the area, while going to or returning from a washroom, while lining up to do anything in the previous list, or where necessary for the purposes of health and safety.
  • No person shall dance, sing or perform music at the establishment except where stated in Ontario Regulation 364/20.

Patios and Other Outdoor Dining Areas

The Government of Ontario regulates how patio and other outdoor dining areas must be configured if using roofs, awnings, walls or other structural elements. These regulations can be viewed at the COVID-19 response framework online resource.


The rules for distancing, service, and cleaning and sanitation that apply to the indoor area of the food premise also apply to patios and other outdoor dining areas. In addition, ensure that patios and other outdoor dining areas:

  • Do not co-mingle lineups with patrons being seated indoors
  • Keep waiting patrons distanced from seated patrons
  • Mark direction of travel to designated entrances, exits, pick-up areas and washrooms
  • Include signage to remind people to maintain physical distance
  • Have one or more means of egress

In the event of severe weather, patrons may go inside the restaurant to:

  • Take temporary shelter
  • Pack their meal for takeout
  • Pay for their meals
  • Dine indoors if physical distancing permits

For more information, visit our COVID-19 Businesses and Workplaces webpage at or call and speak to a Public Health Inspector at 1-800-461-1818.