Updated Food Service Reopening Guidance Tools Are Now Available!

As more food service operations are opening their dining rooms, operators are reminded of the need to comply with the requirements found in Governor Kemp’s Executive Order from May 12, 2020 and to stay alert for any additional updates.  The Georgia Department of Public Health has updated its  COVID-19 GUIDANCE FOR RESTAURANTS WITH DINING ROOM SEATING  to reflect updates in the Executive Order.   

To assist operators with their plans for compliance, the National Restaurant Association has released its Reopening Guidelines training video as the 3rd tool in its series of free COVID-19 response videos for food service facilities. All three training videos are available in English and Spanish and are presented via ServSafe, the organization’s educational arm.  The Reopening Guidelines presents an overview of important actions that help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission by applying new sanitation and disinfecting practices, and recognizing new social distancing requirements that are key components to safely reopening food service operations.

Staying on Top of Key Drop Deliveries!

By Addie Zuniga, EHS2

An important duty of the person-in-charge (PIC) is to ensure the integrity and proper sourcing of food products received. This includes reviewing invoices, examining packaging, and verifying proper internal temperatures of Time-Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) foods as it comes into the facility. It’s the duty of the PIC to make sure packages are examined at the time of receipt, in order to reject any items that may appear damaged or tampered with, or TCS foods that are outside the safe temperature range.  But what about key drop deliveries?

Many food distributers run overnight routes, and this allows facilities the option of overnight deliveries. This is known as a “key drop delivery” – when food deliveries are dropped off in a kitchen, often inside a walk-in cooler, while the business is closed. This can be a convenient set-up, but how would the PIC maintain active managerial control over these deliveries when employees may not arrive at the facility for several hours after the truck has left?  The PIC must designate someone to look for damaged packaging or recalled products upon arrival, allowing those to be set aside for return and not served. However, temperature abuse can be hard to identify, especially if the TCS foods have already been in a walk-in cooler for a long period of time since delivery.  For example, there would be no way for the PIC to know if the refrigeration in the delivery truck had failed and that the TCS foods were transported for several hours in the temperature danger zone overnight, thereby posing a significant food safety risk. Therefore, it is not enough that a PIC simply verify internal temperatures of TCS foods when they arrive at the facility after a key drop delivery.

If a facility is considering key drop delivery, they must establish procedures with the distribution company, that the delivery drivers would be required to follow. There should be a written agreement in which the drivers are tasked with verifying and documenting the internal temperatures of a sample of TCS foods at the time of delivery, for the PIC to review. This is most often achieved by the driver noting the temperatures of various items on the invoice which is then left behind with the delivery.  These procedures may vary, but they should be detailed in the agreement. The PIC should maintain the right to reject these products, even after the driver has left, if they are not satisfied with documented temperatures or other conditions. This policy provides the PIC with the information they need to maintain managerial control over these products, and to know that they are safe for service.

This contract and procedure between the facility and the distributor must be approved by the health authority prior to key drop deliveries being implemented. The PIC should also keep a copy of the signed contract, as well as a recent sample of documented delivery temperatures, onsite for review during each health inspection. This documentation indicates to the health inspector that the PIC is maintaining active managerial control, and that foods are arriving safely and from approved sources.  If you are interested in key drop deliveries, please review the Key Drop Deliveries guidance document produced by Georgia Department of Public Health and our website for additional information. 

Operation Meal Plan: A New Opportunity for Local Restaurants

Operation Meal Plan (OMP) is helping local restaurants to keep their workers employed while providing meals for those in need.  Participating food service establishments receive orders in increments of 25 meals to be prepared for a non-profit organization that provides meals as part of their mission.  OMP was created by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Cobb Community Foundation, the Center for Family Resources, and local non-profits.  Restaurant owners/operators interested in participating may contact Nate Futrell at NFutrell@cobbchamber.org.

Free Food Handler and COVID-19 Takeout/Delivery Training from ServSafe

ServSafe is currently offering COVID-19 themed food takeout and delivery training at no cost to assist those that have shifted to this service as a result of this ongoing outbreak. Additionally, ServSafe is offering free Food Handler training through May 31, 2020. Click on the following link to take advantage of these free training opportunities:


COVID-19 Executive Orders and Emergency Declarations Issued for Georgia, Counties, and Municipalities

The Georgia Department of Public Health has updated its COVID-19 Guidance – Restaurants and Food Service.   This update reflects the conditions of the  Executive Order issued by Governor Kemp on March 23, 2020  in regard to COVID-19 response and protection.   Throughout the state of Georgia, the Governor’s Executive Order bans public gatherings of more than 10 persons and ordered the closure of bars and nightclubs.  As defined by OCGA Code Section 3-1-2(2.1), “bar” refers to any premises at which a retailer licensed to sell alcoholic beverages derives 75 percent or more total annual gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises.  

Also, Cobb County, Douglas County and municipal governments, including Acworth, Austell, Douglasville, Kennesaw, Marietta, Powder Springs, and Smyrna, have each issued Executive Orders/Declarations of Emergency requiring that restaurant dining rooms be closed. However, restaurants may still sell food by way of take-out, drive-thru, and delivery service.  Keep in mind the need to maintain 6 ft clearance between customers when they place orders and wait for pick-ups.  Operators may want to post signage and visual reminders as to the need to maintain appropriate distance between individuals (such as colored tape on the floor marking spots for standing).  To help ensure distancing, some restaurants are having the customers wait in their cars until their orders are ready.  

Please contact our Environmental Health offices if you have any questions.  For Cobb County, call 770-435-7815 and for Douglas County call 770-920-7311

Governor Kemp Issues COVID-19 Executive Order Affecting Restaurants and Bars

On March 23, 2020, Governor Kemp issued an executive order for the entire state that bans public gatherings of 10 or more persons and ordered the closure of bars and nightclubs (as defined by Code Section 3-1-2(2.1)).  Restaurants that are not able to maintain customers at a personal distance of 6 feet apart are to close, but they may continue to provide drive-thru and takeout-only service if that option is available.  In addition, the “medically fragile”—those more susceptible to the virus due to medical conditions, such as those in long-term facilities–are ordered to shelter in place.  This order goes into effect at noon on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 and is scheduled to end on Monday, April 6, 2020.