COVID-19 gives rise to new restaurant jobs

Chains are establishing new roles and responsibilities as dining rooms reopen.
Restaurant employees
Photograph: Shutterstock

As dining rooms reopen, many restaurants are rethinking how to restaff their restaurants in the age of COVID-19. Whether by mandate or inspiration, they’re creating new staff positions and significantly revising the duties of others to contend with social distancing and the threat of viral contamination.

Here’s a look at some of the restaurant jobs that have been created as dine-in services resume.

Concierges: Don’t confuse these new team members with hotel personnel bearing the title. A better term might be “screener” or “bouncer.” Sweetgreen is a case in point. The fast casual has reconfigured its operations to station one employee at the point where customers start their on-site visit. Their prime responsibility is ensuring guests comply with safety standards such as wearing masks, keeping 6 feet away from other parties and not having overt symptoms of COVID-19.

Safety steward: To reopen in Rhode Island for dine-in service, restaurants are required to designate one individual to oversee the adoption and ongoing execution of recommended social-distancing and sanitation practices. Like the “person in charge” that food safety regulations require, the safety steward is the point person on all COVID-19 protections. Indeed, Rhode Island says the COVID-19 cop can also be the food safety manager. The state doesn’t use the steward title, but it fits.

Coronavirus cop: Similarly, that’s not what South Carolina calls the individual bearing overall responsibility for a restaurant’s management of the coronavirus threat, but it’s applicable. The state requires that one person per shift be empowered to police all aspects of combating COVID-19. That includes verification that co-workers are washing their hands properly and frequently, and that frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and high-traffic areas like bathrooms and lobbies be sanitized at a minimum of once per hour. Separately, the state mandates that a food protection manager be on staff to ensure safety in the preparation of meals.

Hygiene captain, sanitizer captain, sanitation specialist: The titles have been adopted by Hooters, Pizza Inn and Denny’s, respectively, for the individuals who are responsible for wiping down dining room surfaces that can harbor the coronavirus. Their job is to go mano-a-mano with the pathogen to keep guests and fellow employees safe; social distancing is apparently not within their purview. Denny’s has even given its germ battler a uniform of sorts: The sanitation specialist wears an arm band or vest to signify the role. He or she also leaves a calling card on clean tables to alert customers that the specialist’s mission has been completed. Pizza Inn’s sanitizer captain has the added responsibility of seeing that the concept’s signature buffet operates safely as a cafeteria-style serving area where only employees handle utensils.

Dining service leader, dining room attendant: These coronavirus cops are responsible for the safety of dining rooms at Blaze Pizza and the TooJay’s deli chain, respectively. In addition to sanitizing hard surfaces, Blaze’s dining service leader has the added role of providing guests with small bags where they can store their face masks while eating.

Temperature takers: Many restaurants go beyond a visual or verbal check of employees as they arrive for work. At Denny’s, for instance, all team members have their temperatures taken with a contactless device before they can start their shift. Vendors also have to submit to a check for fever. Reports have surfaced of guests having their temperatures taken as a condition of entry, but those instances seem to be rare. For employees or guests, it’s far more common to merely ask how they’ve been feeling.

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