Hygiene for cafés and catering stations

Updated 14/08/20

Hygiene has always been important consideration in the delivery of catering services at museums.

Staff and volunteers who work in cafés or catering stations will already be familiar with health and safety in relation to food, and this will give them a big advantage in adapting to new hygiene measures. However, staff and volunteers will still need clear guidance about when they should stay at home as well as when they can come back into work. You may need to adjust working practices and changes work surfaces to make them easier to clean. You will probably need to add more facilities to your site to keep hygiene levels high.

Research commissioned by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) into visitor attitudes to returning to heritage sites suggests that although visitors may be keen to visit sites, they are uncomfortable about indoor cafés. 51% of people would not feel safe using a café at a visitor attraction and this rises to 61% for those over 55. People felt more confident about takeaway options and kiosks, especially with pre-packaged foods. They would also like the option to bring their own food and drink.

Please note that there are new rules around face coverings. Please see the resources section.

You may want to think about the following measures:

  • Consider a deep clean of your catering areas before reopening – it’s very unlikely any virus traces will still be around, but a clean building will inspire confidence in staff and visitors.
  • Surfaces which are touched regularly by people should be cleaned frequently with a detergent and a disinfectant (which must to be left to dry to be effective). Clean door handles, chair arms, kettle handles, light switches, sink taps and any kitchen equipment in this way. Depending on the frequency of use, you may want to clean hourly – and ensure that your visitors can see this happening around them for extra reassurance.
  • Clean and be seen to clean café areas thoroughly and much more frequently to build public trust and keep the risk of contagion low.
  • Obtain good supplies of soap, cleaning chemicals, nitrile gloves and hand sanitiser. Deliveries may take time, so ensure you order early.
  • If you find it difficult to access personal protective equipment and hand sanitisers, you may need to wait to open, or come up with more creative solutions. Simple soap and water is still the most effective way to remove the virus from hands. Consider how you can integrate low cost mobile or static washing stations into your café.
  • Ensure soap, hand sanitiser and paper towels are provided in all staff and public wash stations. You may need to provide more of these as customers will want to wash their hands before eating
  • Ensure you are following social distancing, crowd control and minimising unnecessary contact. Put floor markers down to manage queues and provide additional signage.

A Note on Safety

  • Please stay safe when sanitising your workspace. Following a recent (fortunately non-fatal) electric shock incident in a council setting, please remember that when sanitising your workspace, you should never clean any light switches or electrical outlets/sockets unless you have been given specific responsibility for doing so. If you do have this responsibility, you must clean them using the proper procedure outlined below in order to stay safe.
  • During the pandemic, sanitation has increased in all environments, with particular reference to touchpoints – such as door handles, door plates, tables, chair arms, kitchen white-good handles, light switches, dispensers, flat surfaces such as bookshelves and internal ledges as well as various other areas.
  • If you are responsible for cleaning, or look after staff and volunteers who do, you need to ensure that anyone working in the museum is instructed on the correct method for cleaning light switches/electrical outlets to avoid accidents.
  • Light switches and electrical switch plates must only be cleaned using a slightly damp cloth (e.g. squirt the spray bottle onto the cloth and not directly onto the electrical switch plate or outlet) or with a sanitising wipe. This will help reduce the risk of electrocution.
  • It would also be prudent to have another team member/volunteer on site if cleaning in high risk areas, to provide first aid or call for an ambulance if an incident occurs.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Do your staff/volunteers or visitors need personal protective equipment (PPE) to provide catering or take away services? What level of equipment will you need? Not all protective equipment has the same safety level, and you may find that you have different requirements for different roles.
  • Do you have enough hand washing stations throughout the staff and volunteer areas and the café areas open to the public? Diners may require a washing station before and after they eat/collect food.
  • Can your tables be cleaned more regularly?
  • What training and personal protective equipment will your staff and volunteers need?
  • For re-opening as an eat-in café, plan how you could lay out your tables, maintaining that two-meter gap. You may have to reduce the number of covers you can serve.
  • Would stools or chairs without arms be more hygienic than chairs with arms?
  • Do you need to think about waited tables and self-service to remove risks? Can you reopen your café as a takeaway facility?
  • Can you look into the practicalities of running a takeaway and what you could include on the menu?
  • You might want to think about a reduced menu, with pre-packaged snacks. These will be more popular with visitors and reduce the number of staff required in the kitchen.
  • Can you plan for cleaning tables between customers, and perhaps include signage to let diners know this?
  • What will you do about self-service options such as ice cream freezers, drinks fridges, and hot drink machines?
  • Can you set aside an area for visitors to eat their own food? Could you provide cleaning materials so visitors can clean a table before they eat?
  • What will your policy be on reusable cups and how will you share that message with visitors?
  • Are you set up for contactless payments in your café?
  • If you decide not to reopen your café straight away, could your shop sell some pre-packaged snacks?
  • Have you considered how to manage traffic flow in toilets and wash station areas? Will you need additional signage, a maximum number allowed into each facility, cones to direct people and hands-free methods of opening doors?

Cafes are returning, but as less convivial places with bigger gaps between tables and patrons discouraged from lingering.”

New Statesman, May 2020,




Government guidance for people who work in or run restaurants offering takeaway or delivery services.

Government guidelines on decontaminating public spaces during Covid-19

How to make a face mask (not medical grade)

Hospitality guidance on social distancing

Government café guidance

Food health and safety

BBC article on reusable cup bans before lockdown

Selecting the right personal protective equipment

Sample of personal protective equipment suppliers





Personal Protective Equipment and Cleaning Suppliers

Appendix 8

Face coverings and new rules



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