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Editor's Note: This story is unlocked for everyone to read courtesy of the CRVA, our partner in nourishing culinary exploration for residents and visitors of the Queen City.

June 22, 2020

State-wide initiative asks diners to sign guest pledge

Count On Me NC offers restaurant training, asks guests to help keep workers safe

Staff members who complete the Count On Me NC training earn a certificate of completion.

The uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 has left business owners uncertain of the steps they should take to ensure the safety of their staff and customers. Many were surprised by the lack of requirements mandated by the health department when North Carolina entered the second phase of reopening, which allowed restaurants to reopen at half capacity with socially distant tables but did not require masks, among other things. 

To help restaurants with guidelines specific to the hospitality industry, the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, Department of Health and Human Services, NC State Extension, and Visit NC kicked off Count On Me NC. The initiative serves as a resource for both food and beverage employees and diners state-wide. Industry professionals can find training based on their roles, earning a certificate of completion after finishing an online training. A database of participating restaurants can be found on the initiative’s site, with more than 1,300 restaurants and bars taking part in the Charlotte area. 

“Count On Me NC has been the best resource for updated info, video training for all staffing levels and clear guidance for all North Carolina businesses,” says David Lucarelli, director of operations for Raydal Hospitality (Sabor, Three Amigos, La Caseta).

Sabor Latin Street Grill is one of the many restaurants taking the Count On Me NC business training. The categories include protecting guests, changes to normal operations, sanitation, and employee health, and is specifically tailored to the nuances of restaurant service.

Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen, which has remained opened for its Family Table Meals but suspended cooking classes in March, welcomed kids back into the classroom recently for their cooking camps. Chef and co-owner Alyssa Wilen says she had her staff take the training to be able to know and better communicate to worried parents what they were doing to keep everyone safe.

“They want us to lay out everything we’re doing because they’re sending their kid, so we wanted to have more information to give them and know what we should and shouldn’t do and what was recommended and what was by law,” Wilen says. 

The Count On Me NC initiative also includes a guest pledge, meant to help ensure safety of essential workers like those in food service. “We all have a role to play in keeping our communities safe and healthy,” the pledge reads. “When visiting restaurants, businesses and other public places, you can have a huge impact on the well-being of everyone in our community just by following a few simple guidelines.”

The guest pledge includes what we’re often hearing as simple steps to preventing the spread of Covid-19: wear a mask, wait your turn at least six feet away from others, and wash your hands frequently. The pledge also asks diners to order contactless delivery or takeout if they have been recently exposed to or are showing any symptoms of the novel coronavirus. Lastly, it includes a pledge to “Be patient and kind to staff and other guests as we all try to adjust to a new normal.”

While restaurants have been quick to implement steps to ensure their guests feel safe, few have felt comfortable asking their guests for the same consideration. 300 East has asked guests to wear face masks when entering the restaurant, which can be removed once they are seated. Because it’s not feasible to dine while wearing a face mask, many restaurants are not requiring them. The Count On Me pledge looks to give restaurant workers the same protection as diners.

“So many people are thinking, ‘Well, how are you going to keep me safe?'” Wilen says. “But how are you going to keep our staff safe?”

Diners can sign the Count On Me NC pledge to help protect restaurant workers here. —Kristen Wile


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