Restaurants are set to reopen, but your meal will come with a side of COVID-19 rules

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How restaurants are changing as they reopen in Ontario
WATCH: How restaurants are changing as they reopen in Ontario – Jun 12, 2020

Provinces like British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick have announced plans to reopen restaurants after closing them in mid-March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Patios are also slowly reopening. Certain public health units in Ontario were allowed to reopen patios on Friday, while cities like Moncton, N.B., and Kelowna, B.C., have moved to close some streets to allow for the expansion of outdoor patios and sidewalk terraces.

READ MORE: Restaurants may never go back to ‘normal’ after COVID-19, experts say

Owners are eager to open their doors to the public as the COVID-19 outbreak has caused massive profit losses in the restaurant industry. In fact, recent data collected by Ipsos shows roughly 26 per cent of Canadian restaurants won’t have the funds to reopen.

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In an effort to make restaurants as safe as possible, industry leaders are recommending various safety measures be implemented. Per instruction from the B.C. government, for example, “high-touch” areas will need to be frequently cleaned, and physical barriers like plexiglass will be advised to maintain physical distancing.

READ MORE: Summer patios beckon, but thanks to COVID-19, they won’t be quite the same

Below is a look at reopening plans from some of Canada’s largest restaurants.

Tim Hortons, Burger King and Popeye’s

“You’re going to be seeing dine-in restaurants with more space between tables, frequent cleaning in between every single use,” said Restaurant Brands International Inc. chief corporate officer Duncan Fulton in an interview with BNN Bloomberg.

Restaurant Brands International Inc. owns Tim Hortons and Burger King.

“We want to give people the comfort that they can still come inside with family and friends and sit down and enjoy a meal and a coffee,” Fulton said.

READ MORE: Can we really socialize again? How to do it safely

In a May press release, the company said all three fast-food chains would feature acrylic shields, contactless service and dining rooms with fewer tables upon reopening after coronavirus closures.

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“We will be sanitizing tables and chairs after each use and will have hand sanitizer available in the dining room for our guests,” said the release.

Self-serve soda fountains will be turned off, and drinks will instead be offered with condiments and trays from behind the counter.

Employees are also required to wear masks and gloves at all times.


Moxie’s has reopened some dining rooms in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba and says updates on its remaining locations are coming “soon.”

“We continue to follow provincial and federal reopening guidelines, including operating at 50 per cent capacity,” reads a statement on the restaurant’s website.

According to the company, tables are six feet apart, and the dining experience is “as contactless as possible.”

READ MORE: Relaxed restaurant rules will allow some Okanagan eateries to expand capacity

Each restaurant also has floor decals indicating appropriate social distancing, doors propped open “where possible” and hand sanitization stations at all entrances and in washrooms.

Guest personal protective equipment (PPE) is also available upon request.

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Joey Restaurants

As Joey restaurants reopen, the company has committed to strict food preparation and delivery protocols, according to its site.

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In British Columbia and Alberta, each restaurant is only operating at 50 per cent capacity, and in Winnipeg and Ottawa, only the patios are open at 50 per cent capacity.

All employees are required to wear a mask and gloves to handle food and drop off orders to your car for curbside delivery, and every keypad and surface is sanitized after each use “using WHO-certified disinfectants,” reads the company’s site.

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Quebec bar owners determined to open despite restrictions

All employees are required to undergo “health checks” before returning to work, and no employee is allowed to work if they display any signs of illness.

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Guests will also find social-distancing signage throughout the restaurants, and every second table will not be in use to ensure social distancing between groups of guests.

Menus are also “single-use” or available on your phone via the company’s website.


A&W says it has made a “number of changes” in order to provide a safe environment for guests and employees, according to its site.

The restaurant is undergoing a “phased reopening plan” that will include frequent and proper handwashing by employees, hand sanitizer available for guests and floor stickers to promote proper physical distancing.

Plexiglass guards have also been installed at front counters and takeout windows, and face masks are required by all employees.

The restaurant has also increased the frequency of cleaning and sanitization in all areas, especially “high-contact” areas like PIN pads.


Per its website, Milestones is opening its dining rooms following provincial guidelines.

Each restaurant open to diners is currently operating at “limited capacity,” says the company’s site. “Some tables will remain empty for now.”

Additional cleaning procedures, both in kitchens and dining rooms, have been implemented, and staff are adhering to more “rigorous hygiene policies.”

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READ MORE: ‘We’re bleeding’ — Manitoba restaurant, bar owners say Phase 3 doesn’t go far enough

“Only staff who are symptom-free and have not been exposed to anyone who is sick will be working,” says the site.

Six feet of distance is required between all guests, and there will be floor decals and signs available as reminders. Hand sanitizer will also be made available throughout the restaurants.

Hours of operation may be “limited,” and reservations are encouraged, as is payment with a debit or credit card when possible.

Jack Astor’s

The Jack Astor’s locations in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have fully reopened, while patios in Ontario have reopened in Ottawa, London, Kingston, Kitchener and Barrie.

According to the restaurant’s website, patios in Halton, Durham, Hamilton, Niagara and York regions will begin to reopen on Friday.

“Our top priority is keeping you safe,” says the site.

READ MORE: Some Alberta restaurants struggling despite being allowed to reopen

All Jack Astor’s restaurants have new floor-plans that accommodate “proper physical distancing,” and guests will only be seated in group sizes that match the “provincially permitted number,” says the site.

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Hand sanitizer stations have been installed throughout the restaurants, and all guests will be asked to sanitize their hands prior to entering. Guests will also be provided a complimentary mask.

Bathrooms will be sanitized every 30 minutes, and menus will be single-use or available online. All servers will be required to wear PPE, and they will be pre-screened before every shift for signs and symptoms of illness.

‘More questions than answers’

Some infectious disease experts worry about whether these precautions will be enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The challenge is that, while we know very well how SARS-COV-2 can be transmitted, we have a very limited grasp of the most important routes of transmission in real life,” Stan Houston, professor of medicine at the University of Alberta, previously told Global News.

“We therefore have only relatively imprecise ideas of what works to prevent transmission.”

Colin Furness, a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health in Toronto, is “definitely worried.”

READ MORE: Londoners and restaurants ready for patio season as Ontario’s Stage 2 begins

“Any time you have a lot of people indoors in the same room, you’ve got a heightened risk. No question,” he previously told Global News.

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Recommendations like masks for servers and plexiglass barriers between patrons are good ideas, but they can’t guarantee the virus won’t spread, said Furness.

“It’s probabilistic. By the time that plate makes its way to your table, it’s been handled by a few people,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Capacity limits eased as B.C. restaurants get updated reopening guidelines'
Capacity limits eased as B.C. restaurants get updated reopening guidelines

Furness worries about all the uncontrollable variables that exist in a restaurant setting.

“There’s one author who said (going) to a restaurant to eat is like having unprotected sex with someone you’ve never met,” he said. “It’s a pretty intimate relationship.”

There will be other questions about the efficacy of various measures: should servers be required to wear masks? Could sharing cutlery transmit the virus?

Unfortunately, said Houston, experts just don’t have answers at this time.

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“I have more questions than answers, which I think accurately reflects our state of knowledge.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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