Restaurants have started pivoting to takeaway services amid the pandemic to stay afloat as normal service will only be able to resume, in some capacity, in July.
The government has not ruled out restaurants from offering takeaway services and last month issued guidance.
We look at how safe it is to order takeaway food and what measures restaurants and delivery drivers are taking through the pandemic.
Can coronavirus be spread through food?
The current scientific advice is that Covid-19 is very unlikely to be spread through food. The government guidelines say Covid-19 is a respiratory illness and is “not known to be transmitted by exposure to food or food packaging”.
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health said: “Close contact with an infected individual via sneezing, coughing or picking up the virus from contaminated surfaces and then transfer by hands to face contact are all transmission routes that need to be prevented with good hand hygiene and social distancing.”
The Food Standards Agency also stresses transmission risk is low and “there is no reason to avoid having ready-to-eat food delivered if it has been prepared and handled properly.”
Are some forms of packaging less likely to transmit the virus than others?
The virus can only survive for a limited time outside a human host, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance reports survival on plastic and steel is up to 72 hours and cardboard up to 24 hours.
Food safety expert Sarah Howarth says it is therefore best to take the same precautions as when bringing home food shopping. This includes washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water when entering your house, unpacking the food into your own crockery and throw away the outer packaging.
What are takeaways obliged to do under the new guidance?
Social distancing applies to all parts of the business where possible, and has said screens and/or barriers should be erected to separate people from each other.
Restaurants have been asked to space workstations two metres apart where possible and to consider cleanable panels to separate workstations in larger kitchens. They should minimise access to walk-in pantries, fridges and freezers, with only one person should be able to access the areas at one point in time.
For customers picking up takeaways, restaurants have been asked to set out two metre guidelines and place hand sanitiser at the entrance with a sign asking customers to use it before entering.
How are restaurants protecting employees?
As with other workplaces, the government has suggested businesses open for takeaway should stagger arrival and departure times to reduce crowding into and out of the workplace. And to further reduce congestion, they have suggested more entry points in workplaces.
Kitchen access should be granted to as few people as possible, and interaction between staff should be minimised, including on breaks.
What safety measures are in place for delivery drivers?
There has been a huge push to ordering online since lockdown was imposed in March, and with a plethora of delivery apps specific advice has been issued to delivery drivers.
Restaurants are trying to minimise contact between employees and delivery drivers by implementing zones from which drivers can collect the items.
Deliveroo has asked its partner restaurants to alert them if employees have tested positive for coronavirus as they will need to contact riders who have been in the restaurants.
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health said: “Drivers should wash their hands on arrival for pick-ups and when returning after deliveries. Find a low risk area for food pick-ups. This will avoid the need for drivers to enter kitchen areas or come into contact with kitchen staff.”
What is contactless delivery?
A number of different restaurants have begun to offer contactless delivery, which sees food left in a space place in a bid to protect the driver and customer.
Deliveroo and Domino’s are among the takeaway services offering customers the option to use contactless delivery and pay online. Uber Eats and Just Eat are also offering this option.
What is the tipping etiquette?
As the Trip Advisor etiquette guide says “the delivery driver would obviously appreciate a pound” but “if you pick up the food from the takeaway restaurant, tipping would be inappropriate.”
Generally a £1 tip for the delivery driver is considered appropriate.
The WHO has not specifically advised people to stop using cash but it is advisable, if you are going to tip your delivery driver, to do so through the app where possible.