Concession stands do more for youth clubs than provide snacks and drinks to those playing and spectating. Profits made from them go toward equipment, officials, fields and many other expenses that clubs incur each season. That makes reopening concessions as soon as possible all the more important, but doing so safely will be key in helping limit the spread of COVID-19.
Communal spaces around concession stands cause multiple complications when trying to stop the spread of the virus. From social distancing to disinfecting shared surfaces and having to maintain proper guidelines set for the handling of food, it will be a challenge to make sure everyone stays safe while trying to get what they need.
Organizations such as the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide guidelines for youth sports returning to play. The CDC also provides an extensive guide for bars and restaurants, which can be applied to concession stands. These snack bars fit perfectly into the CDC’s recommendations for take out and delivery since they usually have no dine-in seating at them.
There are four guidelines to be aware of when distributing food to the public: promote good behavior, maintain a healthy environment, maintain a healthy operation and prepare for sick employees.
Promote Behaviors that Reduce Spread
Everyone working must practice good hygiene and wash their hands frequently, wear cloth masks over their faces while handling food, and continue social distancing by making sure there is signage that lays out a 6-foot spread between customers.
“Really evaluate the spaces and the risk,” Allison Coleman, the NRPA director of health, said when giving examples of what people can do at concession stands to help minimize the spread of COVID-19. “Then implement environmental controls and modify layouts to support physical distancing, to limit that person-to-person contact. That could include controlling traffic flow, installing markers at 6-foot distance, installing additional signing on the site, putting up sneeze guards, things like that, to really protect staff, volunteers and ultimately the community.”
Maintain Healthy Environments
Make sure to create a plan of what needs to get cleaned and when it should be done to maintain a healthy environment in shared public spaces. The CDC recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, cash registers, workstations and bathrooms as often as possible with disinfectants from this list.
A move to contactless payment, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay, is also highly recommended. This minimizes person-to-person contact as there is no exchange of cash or credit cards.
Maintain Healthy Operations
It’s important to keep the employees or volunteers of the concession stands safe since they are the ones interacting directly with the customers. Offer those at higher risk different options to limit their exposure (i.e. cook food so they have less person-to-person contact), stagger or rotate shifts to limit the amount of people working at one time, limit the amount of customers that can be near the concession stand at one time, and have a backup staffing plan in case workers get sick.
Prepare for Sick Employees
Workers must stay home, or immediately leave the concession area and isolate themselves, if they become sick. Then close off all areas used by the sick person and do not reopen them until they have been cleaned and disinfected. If possible, wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting. All places that serve food should notify local health officials immediately of any COVID-19 cases among the staff.
Concessions will be able to remain open once the proper plans are in place and everyone follows the guidelines set by the CDC. Then everyone can enjoy a hot dog and sip on a sports drink as they watch a sporting event, just as it’s been done for years.