Impact of COVID-19 on the United States Food Service Industry and Science-Based Strategies for Pandemic Preparedness
Epidemiologists suggest that even as we deal with the current COVID-19 crisis, we also prepare for future pandemics. The purpose of this special report is to document the impact of COVID-19 on the food service industry, as well as provide strategies based on empirical evidence and suggestions for future preparedness. Studies have found a need for increased emphasis on specific arenas within the food service industry: 1) cleaning and sanitation of fomites such as doorknobs, menus, and table surfaces, 2) rigorous hand-washing and mask-wearing practices to decrease transmissibility of the virus, 3) effective ventilation within operations, and 4) empathetic leadership to enhance resiliency as food service operations across the country cope and work toward reopening. From the practitioner’s standpoint, clear and effective communication is key for working with food service operations. The importance of social distancing and mask wearing has been documented using science-based evidence; however, the ways in which these measures are enforced in food service establishments vary across counties and cities within each state, leading to confusion and frustration. As we prepare for the next pandemic, having a rigorous plan to deal with different biological hazards across multiple organizational levels will help with preparedness and the speed of implementation.
Speaker / Author:
Sujata A. Sirsat, PhD, Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, University of Houston