From socially distanced desks to working outside, businesses have had no choice but to adapt to our new reality as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. But while working from home and virtual meetings can be quite successful, there are still occasions when a more personal touch is required.
So how do you organize a face-to-face event — with food —in the age of COVID-19? Let's explore some ways to help promote health and safety during your next catered, in-person meeting.
Enforce Infection Control
If your office is open and you're holding an event in your space, you should already be following the CDC's guidance for businesses and office buildings. This includes infection control measures such as proper cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces using EPA-approved products. It's important to make sure your catering company is also adhering to those guidelines, no matter where your event is being held. It's also critical to foster proper hand hygiene as much as possible, so consider placing hand sanitizer stations throughout your meeting space.
Stop the Spread
The last thing you want is for a guest to attend when they're sick. Set up a screening station before anyone enters your event to take their temperature and ask questions regarding any potential symptoms or contact with COVID-19. Depending on the size of your event, it might be wise to provide different arrival times for groups of attendees to help avoid people gathering closely while waiting to enter (especially if people are stopped at the door for a temperature check). Depending on your state or local guidelines, masks may already be required for indoor gatherings. But even if they're not, it's a good idea to require them (aside from when people are eating) and have extras on hand.
Practice Social Distancing
Gone are the days of sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with colleagues in a crowded meeting room. Instead, be strategic about how you arrange your event furniture — maintaining at least six feet of space between tables and chairs. Be especially careful about how close attendees are to speakers, as COVID-19 is thought to be mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze. For larger events, you could split people into different rooms and live stream a video of the speakers from another location. Room flow and distancing markers are also a good idea to help people maintain their distance.
Choose Food Options Carefully
While a buffet may be the easier, cheaper option, it's no longer a safe choice. Even laying food out on a table for people to walk by and take isn't advisable. Instead, opt for pre-packaged food that can be distributed individually. If you want to ensure everyone receives something they actually want (and that follows their dietary preferences), take orders ahead of time. Make sure those handing out the meals are wearing proper personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves.
Use a Dependable Caterer
Before you hop online to order from your favorite restaurant, pick up the phone, and talk to them about their COVID-19 safety measures. What precautions are they taking in their kitchen? Are their staff members following sanitation and hygiene guidelines? Are they screening and/or testing their employees regularly? Are they providing training on safe food handling? Will they provide an on-site sanitation manager for your event? You'll want to vet your caterer properly to help make your meeting as safe as possible.
While it's not always an option, it's recommended to host gatherings outside or in areas with fresh air. But no matter your meeting location, taking the recommended steps to keep your team members and attendees safe is critically important. When in doubt, visit the CDC website and follow their guidance. Need additional ideas for hosting safe events during COVID? Let's chat.