U of G Food Safety Expert Discusses Patio Season

Empty restaurant patio tables and chairs


With the weather warmed up, many restaurants across Canada are eager to open their patios to customers again. But what will be needed to keep customers as safe as possible from COVID-19?

The University of Guelph has an expert who can offer comment.

Prof. Jeffrey Farber, an adjunct professor of food microbiology in the Department of Food Science, said while there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of transmitting the virus, there are ways to reduce it.

Alberta and the Prairies have already allowed restaurants to open at 50-per-cent capacity and expand their patios, which is what Farber expects could occur in Ontario as well.

Prof. Jeffrey Farber

“Transmission of this virus is not as much of a concern outside because it’s not closed in, but even on patios, tables will need to be spaced apart, both for customers’ sake and to ensure ample room for wait staff to move around,” he said.

He added he’d also like to see wait staff wear face masks.

“The concept of the masks is: ‘you protect me and I protect you.’ We know they are not foolproof but they can help reduce transmission,” he said.

Other ideas Farber thinks restaurants need to consider are mandatory reservations to avoid people congregating in lines, and buzzers to alert customers when their table is ready. He’d also like to see restaurants encouraging customers to use hand sanitizer when they enter and leave, disposable menus and sanitation of tables between guests.

“One thing I don’t think will work is those glass or plastic domes around tables you’ve seen some places try. I’m not sure that’s a great concept because what you’re actually doing is creating an indoor environment outside. So if there are infected people talking and coughing inside the domes, the virus is going to be confined there — potentially making it more likely for people to be infected,” he said.

Prof. Farber is available for interviews.


Prof. Jeff Farber