At a time when restaurants are still closed in France, with no real idea of a future reopening date, an experimental 'zero Covid-19 restaurant' has emerged in Alsace.
For the past few months, Michelin-starred restaurant La Maison des Têtes in Colmar has been doing everything possible to transform itself into an 'innovation lab'. It has become a means for restaurant owners Eric and Marilyn Girardin to respond to the conclusions of the Scientific Council and the Pasteur Institute, which considered that "meals play a central role in contamination, whether in a family or friendly environment and to a lesser degree in a professional environment."
The Protocol for a Covid-Free Restaurant
In Alsace, a region hit hard by the health crisis, a working group has devised solutions and an experimental protocol that would allow the safe reopening of restaurants. "The report of the experimental study [...] is rather reassuring and makes it possible to formulate recommendations consistent with those of the French Ministry of Labor in the business catering sector," explains Jean-Michel Wendling, a doctor in Strasbourg and volunteer of the working group. "The supply of food in essential companies, such as large retailers, has never stopped and if our recommendations are followed and things are done right, my experience shows that we have no contamination to fear."
Zero-Covid Restaurant: the Rules in the Dining room and in the Kitchen
Among the measures proposed by the study, we find the same recommendations as those made last June, when the restaurants reopened after the first lockdown: hydroalcoholic gel dispensers at the restaurant's entrance, plus an individual bottle of disinfectant gel available to each guest at the table, and disposable menus. At the table, a plexiglass barrier divides the various seats.
In the kitchen, there are individual workstations equipped with taps with automatic contactless detection. "The towels are disposable. There is a contactless soap dispenser. The bins can only be opened with a foot pedal," adds chef Éric Girardin.
Other measures, however, go much further. Handles in the restaurant, the toilets and the common areas are covered with a self-decontaminating coating. The experimental restaurant is also equipped with a UV disinfection tunnel that allows 'an almost instant treatment of each prepared dish' before being served at the table. It is claimed to be effective on bacteria and viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, in less than 5 seconds, with validation by the CNRS and Barrand laboratories on bacteria. The zero-Covid study also tested a portable device facilitating the disinfection of surfaces, tables, credit cards, cutlery and jugs.
Last big point: the proposal of rapid tests with saliva sampling. "We could offer regular tests to all staff on a voluntary basis, or even inform customers of this option before coming to enjoy the restaurant. All in complete safety, while waiting for the vaccine to finally give us the return to normal that we all expect," says chef Girardin.
In addition, the device detailed above would imply an investment of 10,000 to 12,000 euros (approx 15000 USD) per restaurant. Of course, not everyone has the means to take such measures.
The restaurant is not the first to experiment with new safety measures. Last summer French chef Alain Ducasse revealed a new anti virus air system at his tiny Allard restaurant in Paris, in order to overcome social distancing restrictions.