Swine flu and restaurants: Tips for protecting your customers and staff
Pizzeria operators are already paying close attention to the spread of the swine flu virus. Officials from Chuck E. Cheese parent CEC Entertainment Inc. had postponed the company's first-quarter earnings call to "better afford management the time to assess our business outlook given the swine flu outbreak in the country and its potential implications to our business."
 
Pork producers, concerned about the economic fallout from the outbreak, are stressing that pork products such as sausage and pepperoni are safe to eat. According to the Center for Disease Control, the flu is not transmitted by food.
 
And the World Health Organization, partly in response to confusion over how the virus is transmitted, has dropped the swine flu name and now refers to the disease as H1N1 influenza A.
 
In the coming weeks, we'll know whether the current swine flu scare is a real pandemic or (hopefully) something much smaller. Either way, we are guaranteed to become a population with a heightened sense of germ-phobia and awareness, even if only for a short period of time.
 
In response to concerns over the outbreak, the National Restaurant Association has posted several news items on its Web site to help restaurant operators deal with the issue. The NRA offers these tips when it comes to communicating with employees how good hygiene practices are critical to preventing the spread of influenza as well as other potential illnesses:
  • Remind employees that their health and safety, as well as that of the customers, is your No. 1 priority.
  • Coordinate with your local health department on any actions that are being taken in your local community. Keep in close contact to be sure you are advised of any change in local status.
  • Repeat the basic steps of proper hygiene: Wash hands often. Cover mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. Avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
  • Inform employees of the symptoms of H1N1/swine flu: Fever, headaches, cough, chills, sore throat, fatigue, body aches and possible diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Suggest that if employees experience symptoms they believe are connected with the flu, they should see a health care provider who can direct appropriate action.
  • Be sure to have this information accessible and easily visible to all employees.

As the situation continues to develop, the NRA says it will update these communications guidelines accordingly. Media representative Annika Stensson said the association is in frequent communication with government agencies as well as their membership to provide up-to-date information. The NRA also has established a Web site that includes additional tips and information.  

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