How Restaurant Contact Tracing is Shaping Industry Policy
In the ongoing effort to improve safety during the pandemic, restaurant contact tracing has emerged as a mandatory policy in many communities. Many restaurants have been forced to attempt to collect information from their patrons to varying results. This has sparked everything from health benefits to outrage and noncompliance, but enforcing these policies is often necessary to remain in business for those in the restaurant industry.
So what exactly is contact tracing? How is it shaping restaurant policy? How can you navigate the landmines that surround restaurant contact tracing enforcement?
What is Restaurant Contact Tracing?
Among requirements like calculating square footage and limiting restaurant capacity, contact tracing has become a standard worldwide as policymakers fight the coronavirus. But what exactly does contact tracing entail?
Contact tracing is the process of collecting information regarding individuals to stop the spread of disease by contacting exposed parties. In the restaurant industry, this has amounted to taking customer’s last names and phone numbers so that individuals can be notified and informed of proper quarantine procedures in the event of an exposure.
Like any similar measure, these practices have been met with mixed responses. Some see data collection as an invasion of privacy, while others are grateful for the steps being taken to better their safety. Regardless, the restaurant contact tracing process helps disease control officials create exposure maps and gives them the data they need to formulate safety recommendations better.
With COVID-19, a person can go symptom-free for 48 to 72 hours. Preventing the spread requires notifying these individuals of exposure before they continue their normal routine. Contact tracing makes this possible. Unfortunately, this can cause a shake-up in day-to-day restaurant functionality.
How Contact Tracing Impacts Daily Restaurant Functions
One study showed that 8.7% of COVID-positive patients listed a cafe or diner as a potential exposure source. Meanwhile, a Japanese investigation traced 3,000 cases back to 61 different clusters, 16% of which occurred in bars and restaurants. A collective analysis of data like this has concluded that restaurants operating at full capacity are the riskiest locations for spreading COVID-19.
To combat this risk, restaurants worldwide have implemented a variety of measures from curbside pickup to spaced seating. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have laid out a host of recommendations for restaurant and bar procedures to mitigate potential spread. Still, the need for contact tracing remains in many hard-hit communities.
The impetus grows for restaurants to adopt contact tracing standards, whether mandated or not. However, this can come with impacts on the daily functions of any eatery. Here are just some of these potential impacts:
- Legal issues arising from privacy invasions
- The commitment of staff to managing contact tracing policies
- Possibility of alterations with customers who disagree with these policies
- Adoption of technology that allows for data collection
- Enhanced comfort of some customers knowing they will be informed about an outbreak
These impacts shape restaurant policies around the world as some look to implement a safer system while others see only the downsides. Integrating contact tracing, however, is unavoidable in regions that have instituted regulations mandating it. In these instances, unclear directives and procedures can create even more problems for the restaurants involved.
Navigating the Landmines of Changing Policy
In Michigan, an unclear order from the governor’s health department led to challenges like those listed above. This created confusion and anger as well as liability issues regarding privacy laws. All these complicate navigating public affairs and relations for any business, and restaurants have it particularly hard.
Luckily, there are simple strategies you can employ to manage new restaurant contact tracing policies better while staying compliant with existing privacy laws. Some of these strategies will require using new technology, while others can be managed with your current tools.
Here’s what you should know:
- Utilize effective restaurant management software to track guest intake and required associated data.
- Consider limiting in-house guests to a reservation system that will require the tracking of the necessary information.
- Provide customers with details about how their data will be used.
- Securely destroy all retained customer data after 21 days or the minimum period required by government mandates.
- Follow all General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines and any other privacy mandates relevant in your area.
While these strategies will not remove all the burdens of implementing contact tracing in your restaurant policy, they will substantially reduce the problems that can arise. Then, it is up to you to manage problems with customers and ensure that they understand all data collection is for the sole purpose of keeping others safe.
Restaurant Contact Tracing Conclusion
Restaurant contact tracing is a method of preventing the spread of COVID that will no-doubt continue for some time. Restaurants looking to mitigate the negative impacts this tracing has on their policies can implement basic data protection standards that will keep risk and liability at a minimum. While such change may not be ideal, these policies will help carry your restaurant into the future, one hopefully free from COVID-19.
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About the Author
Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work. When he is not writing, he enjoys reading and trying new things.