Guidelines for restaurants and other food businesses
Minimizing the spread of COVID-19
Phase 3 of the state's Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery plan
King County is currently in Phase 3 of the state’s Healthy Washington Roadmap to Recovery plan. Phase 3 allows for additional indoor activities, including indoor dining at 50 percent capacity.
For more details about the Healthy Washington plan, please visit the Governor’s Healthy Washington site.
As we face new more contagious COVID-19 variants, we must stay as vigilant as ever to keep businesses open and COVID activity trending down. In addition to wearing well-fitted masks and social distancing, Public Health—Seattle & King County encourages food establishments operating indoors to maximize fresh air, ventilation and air flow, in addition to outdoor dining and take-out.
- Healthy Washington requirements for restaurants and taverns.
Food businesses can play an important role in protecting both their employees and customers from COVID-19 by following recommended personal and environmental hygiene recommendations.
Restaurants and taverns must develop and adopt a written procedure for food service that meets the guidelines listed in the linked documents below. The procedure must comply with all safety and health requirements made by Public Health – Seattle & King County, Governor Jay Inslee, Washington State Department of Health, and Washington State Department of Labor & Industry.
A COVID-19 monitor must be designated at each job site to monitor employee health and enforce the COVID-19 safety plan.
*Written procedures do not need to be submitted to Public Health — Seattle & King County for approval, but should be available during inspections.
Safe Start for Taverns and Restaurants (SSTAR)
King County's Safe Start for Taverns and Restaurants (SSTAR) program provides education and materials to help restaurants implement state and public health guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It also increases the accountability of food service establishments to abide by the health and safety standards that support a safe reopening. Read more about SSTAR on the Public Health Insider blog: Ensuring safe start compliance in restaurants and taverns: SSTAR launches in King County.
What SSTAR inspectors are looking for
When SSTAR inspectors visit a food establishment, they’ll be assessing compliance with all COVID-19 requirements, with a focus on the following 10 measures. Each measure will be assessed as full, partial, or out of compliance.
These measures are based on the guidance from the Governor’s Office and the WA Department of Health, which are listed below.
- For a complete list of COVID-19 requirements for restaurants and other food facilities, visit the Washington State Dept. of Health's Food Worker and Establishment Guidance on COVID-19.
- The Governor’s office has provided guidance for Restaurants and other Food Facilities.
- Healthy Washington - Roadmap to Recovery announced by Governor's Office on January 5, 2021
- The Governor’s office has provided Guidance on Open Air and Outdoor Seating
Read more about the 10 measures and find information to help you comply:
Check to see if employees have any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 at the start of their shift. Use the COVID-19 employee screening tool below and keep a log that the screening process was followed for all employees.
Employee screening tool:
- 篩選工具 (Chinese)
- 증상 검사 지침 (Korean)
- Инструмент для скрининга (Russian)
- Herramienta de evaluación (Spanish)
- Công Cụ Sàng Lọc (Vietnamese)
If an employee has COVID symptoms: send them home and advise them to seek testing. Find a free COVID test site near you.
All employees must wear face coverings at all times when present at work.
The Washington State Dept. of Labor & Industries requires employers to provide at no cost appropriate face coverings or masks to their employees.
More information on our face coverings requirement webpage.
Maintain at least six feet of separation between all employees and between employees and customers, except for unavoidable, short-term exposures. When strict physical distancing is not feasible for a specific task, other measures are required, such as installing barriers, reducing staff or staggering worker hours.
All employees must wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for 20 seconds upon first arriving to work, after using the restroom, before and after eating and frequently throughout the day. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Provide alcohol based (60%) hand sanitizers for use for both employees and customers by placing them at convenient/accessible locations.
Use sanitizing solution (i.e., one teaspoon of unscented household bleach in a gallon of cool water) to frequently sanitize commonly touched surfaces and objects such as electronics, door knobs, faucet handles, counter tops, cash machine key pads, dining tables at least hourly. Change the sanitizing solution at least once every four hours.
Replace utensils for salad bars and buffets hourly.
Clean and sanitize tables, condiment containers, and menus after every customer.
Ensure dishwasher and/or three–compartment sinks are used properly and have the appropriate level of sanitizer for final rinse (50-100 PPM chlorine based sanitizer, follow product label for other approved sanitizers).
Ensure sneeze guards are in place where required.
For more information, see guidance for cleaning and disinfecting from the CDC.
- Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting: Procedures for food establishments (PDF)
- 清潔、消毒和殺菌 : 餐飲業指南 (Chinese, Traditional)
- 청소, 살균 및 소독: 요식업체를 위한 절차 (Korean)
- Влажная уборка , санитарная обработка и дезинфекция: Инструкции для предприятий общественного питания (Russian)
- Limpieza, sanitización y desinfección: Procedimientos para establecimientos de comidas (Spanish)
- Làm sạch, vệ sinh và khử trùng: Các quy trình cho các cơ sở thực phẩm (Vietnamese)
- 清潔、消毒和殺菌 : 餐飲業指南 (Chinese, Traditional)
Have a plan to obtain and maintain voluntary customer contact information to help with contact tracing. Food establishment owners are required to have a system for collecting this information but customers are not required to share their information. Maintain a daily log of all guests that voluntarily provide contact information, including customer names, phone/email, and time/date they were in the facility. Maintain the log for 30 days to help with contact tracing.
Examples of how customers can provide the voluntary information: posting signage suggesting customers provide contact information on a log sheet, providing individual forms or a log sheet for customers to fill out, using credit card receipts to add customer names to the log, or using a reservation system to maintain contact info.
In the 3-Phase Roadmap to Recovery Plan, indoor seating is prohibited in Phase 1, limited to 25% of indoor capacity in Phase 2, and 50% in Phase 3 with proper physical distancing. Outdoor seating is allowed in all phases. Indoor area that meet the standards for “Open Air Dining” are considered outdoor seating. Open Air and Outdoor Seating Requirements.
In Phase 1-2, a maximum of 6 guests are allowed per table, from up to 2 households. In Phase 3, maximum of 10 people per table, no household restrictions, minimum 6 feet distance between tables, 6 feet between seated customers at adjoining tables is recommended. .
Bar counter seating is not allowed. Do not allow seating at a bar table or counter where customers sit or stand side-by-side, and alcohol is served. Close bar area seating that allows for the congregation of customers from separate parties.
Counter-style seating is permitted in other areas of the establishment such as sushi bars and lunch counters, so long as 6 feet of physical distance is maintained between customers from different parties and from food workers.
Outdoor Dining tables and seating booths are allowed if they follow the same dining requirements in the guidance document.
All alcohol sales, service and consumption must end at 12 midnight.
Food service establishments must require and enforce the use of face coverings by all customers. All customers must wear a face covering at all times while at the food establishment, except when actively eating or drinking.
Some people are exempt from mask requirements for health and safety reasons. In these cases, food establishments should try to offer a reasonable accommodation, such as curb-side pick-up, delivery or take-out. Reference this toolkit and educate employees to understand mask exemptions.
Post signage advising everyone to wear face coverings on the premises. Download a sign that you can print and hang in your business.
Visit our face coverings webpage for more information.
Ask customers to stay 6 feet apart from others, including between tables at restaurants, customers waiting in line, and customer seating in the lobby or waiting area. You may need to print posters encouraging this behavior, or place tape or markers on the floor six feet apart.
Seat customers from separate groups at least 6 feet apart, or if 6 feet is not possible for indoor seating, an acceptable barrier may be allowed. Barriers should be a smooth, rigid surface that is easily cleanable and of sufficient height to provide adequate protection from coughs and sneezes from nearby booths or tables.
Seat customers from separate groups at least 6 feet apart, or with an acceptable barrier in between (like an impermeable barrier, such as a plexiglass window or plastic sheet). Barriers are recommended to be at least 6’ in height.
Vending and game areas (such as pool, darts, and video games) are allowed with restrictions. See restrictions for Phase 1 and Phase 2.
Theaters and other Performing Arts are also allowed to operate, provided they meet the related standards.
6 guests maximum per table, 2 households maximum. Table seating must be placed a minimum of 6 feet away from adjacent table seating. Please see link to further guidance on Open Air and Outdoor Seating Requirements.
King County has prepared a one page overview of the guidance for Open Air and Outdoor Seating.
- COVID-19 疫情期间露天和户外用餐须知 (Simplified Chinese)
- COVID-19 疫情期間露天和戶外用餐須知 (Traditional Chinese)
- COVID-19 동안 옥외 및 실외 식사에 대해 알아야 할 사항 (Korean)
- Что нужно знать об открытых зонах обслуживания и наружных конструкциях в ресторанах во время COVID-19 (Russian)
- Lo que tiene que saber sobre comer al aire libre durante el COVID-19 (Spanish)
- Những đIều cần biết về ăn uống trong không gian thoáng gió và ngoàI trờI trong thờI kỳ COVID-19 (Vietnamese)
What should I do if a food worker is diagnosed with COVID-19?
Food businesses must notify Public Health within 24 hours if you suspect COVID is spreading in your workplace or if there are two or more confirmed or suspected cases among your employees in a 14-day period. At this time, food business employers are highly encouraged to report a single cases of COVID-19 among employees to Public Health – Seattle & King County. Report cases online.
Employee safety and health
Employers must follow the Washington State Department of Labor & Industry COVID-19 requirements to protect workers:
- Educate workers about coronavirus and how to prevent spread of disease. Workers should also know the employer's COVID-19 policies. This should happen in the language workers understand best.
- Always maintain at least six feet of separation between all employees and customers. If physical distancing is not possible for a specific task, use other prevention measures: use physical barriers, limit the number of people in narrow or enclosed areas, stagger breaks and work shift starts so fewer people are working at the same time.
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, face shields and facemasks as appropriate to employees for the work activity.
- Employees must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before each shift begins. Ask workers if they have any of these symptoms that cannot be attributed to another condition: Fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea. If they have any of these symptoms, they need to stay home. Have them contact their physician for possible testing or learn about free testing at: www.kingcounty.gov/covid/testing
Customer safety and health
Restaurants and taverns must take steps to make sure that customers understand and practice behaviors that will help minimize the spread of COVID-19.
- Place signs at the entrance to encourage customers to:
- stay home if ill or having COVID-19 symptoms
- wear a face covering unless eating
- use hand sanitizer upon entering building
- stay six feet away from others at all times.
- Ensure restrooms are supplied with warm water, soap, and single-use towels for handwashing.
- Frequently clean and disinfect common surfaces in dining areas and restrooms
If you have food employees at higher risk for coronavirus with underlying health conditions, such as people 60 or older, people with underlying health conditions (heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes) or those with weakened immune systems or those who are pregnant: consider temporarily assigning employees with underlying health conditions to non-public-contact duties. employees in high-risk groups for COVID-19 must be granted leave if they can't report to work for health reasons. Read the guidance memo for Proclamation 20-46.1 about "High-Risk Employees – Workers’ Rights".
It is against the law for any employer to fire or retaliate against a worker for reporting concerns about health and safety.
Find out more about worker's rights, WA State Dept. of Labor and Industries
- SSTAR & Small Business Task Force Webinar July 29, 2020 (video)
- Virtual food safety assessments
- Food Worker and Establishment Guidance on COVID-19, Washington State Dept. of Health
- King County's Safe Start for Taverns and Restaurants: Phase 2 & 3 Restaurant Guidance November 4, 2020 (video)
- This presentation is also available in PDF
- Limit on 3rd Party Food Delivery Fees, Governor's office, Nov 25, 2020. Also available in the languages below:
Download posters and materials for your restaurant
We're here to help! If you are a food business owner or a food worker and have questions related to your operation, please reach out to your Health Investigator by calling 206-263-9566 to speak with office staff or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
To file a complaint about a possible unsafe food handling or unsafe COVID-19 practice observation at a King County food establishment, please see www.kingcounty.gov/foodcomplaint
Link/share our site at www.kingcounty.gov/SSTAR