The Texas Restaurant Association (TRA) is piloting a program that aims to reassure consumers about the safety of dining in restaurants by awarding a displayable certificate to establishments that have followed recommended protocols for preventing COVID-19 contaminations.
Restaurants must undergo specific staff training and pass an evaluation before being granted a Texas Restaurant Promise Certified and Verified decal, which they can post on their front door or window. Inspectors from A Closer Look, a mystery-shopper service partnering with the TRA on the program, will periodically visit certified establishments to verify their ongoing compliance.
The program will begin with 500 restaurants. A grant from the Texas Workforce Commission, the state agency that provides unemployment benefits, will cover the charter group’s costs. The TRA and the Dallas College, the educational body that developed the initiative’s training component, said they intend to seek additional grants to ensure that all restaurants in the state can participate.
“This comprehensive program allows restaurant owners and their staff to demonstrate to the public that they have done everything possible to safely receive guests in their dining rooms,” Emily Knight, the TRA’s CEO, said in a statement. ”This is a big win for our industry and will continue to build trust between consumers and restaurants.”
The association cites research that shows 77% of consumers plan to visit restaurants less often as the industry reopens than they did before the pandemic. Its initiatives come as many have wondered if the state, one of the first to reopen dining rooms, has moved too quickly in striving to restart its economy.
The training portion of the certification process requires that employees involved in a restaurant’s safety protocols undergo five educational courses. Those staff members will likely include managers; the employees involved with takeout and delivery; servers; back-of-house workers; and members of cleaning crews. At least five employees must undergo the training.
In addition to verifying compliance through unannounced visits, consumers will be able to verify a restaurant’s compliance with safety standards through the use of an app, according to A Closer Look’s technology partner in the venture, Quip. The tech company says that consumers can text “SAFE” to indicate that they found an establishment following recommended safety practices.
A Closer Look will provide remedial instruction if they find a restaurant is not doing all that it should to protect guests, the TRA said.
The program officially begins Wednesday.
It uses the name of the Texas Restaurant Promise, a confidence-boosting initiative the TRA undertook as dining rooms in the state began to reopen. The association spelled out the best practices that restaurant proprietors, employees and guests should follow to protect the safety of all. Restaurants that pledged to follow the measures could post a placard at their entrances to reassure customers that the recommendations of health authorities had been adopted. The notices also informed customers of what was expected of them to keep guests and employees safe.
That approach of pledging to follow recommended practices was subsequently adopted by a number of states and jurisdictions as they reopened.