Now that most of the restaurants that have stayed open are serving customers curbside only, many locals are still reluctant to trust any bite of food they didn’t prepare themselves.
A flood of online posts and articles about food safety has recently raised concerns over the potential spread of COVID-19 through food delivery, so, for the food industry’s perspective, we reached out to Jon Bonnell, a respected local chef and longtime restaurateur.
“In my opinion, curbside pickup from a reputable restaurant seems to be one of the safest options,” said the owner of Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine and Waters: Bonnell’s Coastal Cuisine.
It comes down to contact and exposure, he continued. Customers who pick up food from Waters (or other restaurants) risk minimal contact with employees. Bonnell said he wears a facemask and gloves when placing food in the backseats of cars.
Restaurants already offer minimal human contact when it comes to preparing food, he said. The food used to make your order travels through a distributor and a few cooks and then to your car.
“Grocery store food is handled by a lot of people” before the food rolls down the checkout line, he said.
Delivery is another great option, Bonnell said, adding that food can be left outside the residence.
At Bonnell’s restaurants and many others, the chef continued, employees are required to wash their hands and to sanitize surfaces religiously.
The Consumer Health Division of Fort Worth’s Code Compliance Department regularly inspects Fort Worth’s fast-food, casual-dining, and fine-dining eateries to ensure that stringent guidelines are being followed, according to the city’s website. These regulations govern how food establishment employees wash, rinse, and sanitize all utensils and cookware and ensure that perishable food does not spoil.
Of course, it is up to individual restaurant owners and managers to make sure that sick employees stay home. Bonnell said that the members of his staff, which has dwindled to one-tenth of its usual size, are on the lookout for signs of the common cold or flu.
While the order to shutter restaurant dining rooms has devastated his industry, Bonnell applauds the strong leadership of North Texas officials, who are putting public health and safety first. Dallas recently announced a shelter-in-place policy that restricts movement of the public to essential activities like stocking up on food or seeking medical help. So far, those restrictions have allowed restaurants to continue to deliver food to locals.
“Fort Worth is a tight-knit community,” Bonnell said. “We will band together and get through this, but at the same time, we need to feed people.”
To keep up with changing restaurant hours and delivery options, follow the Weekly’s Bulletin Board at Fwweekly.com. –– Edward Brown