COVID-19: Resources for Retail Food Establishments

 The following summarizes some of the protocols contained in:

  1. DOH Executive Directive 20-019COVID-19 Protocols for Food or Beverage Establishments Offering Service in Outdoor and Indoor Areas and EO 157. 
  2. DOH Executive Directive 20-030: Health and Safety Standards for Indoor Dining and EO 183 

This summary is not a replacement for fully complying with the terms of DOH ED 20-019EO 157, DOH ED 20-030, and EO 183 and businesses should read the full guidance carefully to ensure full compliance.

COVID-19 Protocols for Food or Beverage Establishments Offering Service in Outdoor Areas

Establishments must institute the following policies for outdoor dining:

  • Limit seating to a maximum of 8 customers per table - unless from an immediate family or the same household – and arrange seating to achieve a minimum distance of 6 feet between parties;
  • Encourage reservations for greater control of customer traffic;
  • Cordon off any indoor or outdoor dance floors to the public;
  • Require customers to provide a phone number if making a reservation to facilitate contact tracing;
  • Consider alternatives to paper/physical menus (whiteboards, electronic menus);
  • Provide a hand sanitizer station for customers; and
  • Require customers who wish to enter the indoor portion of the establishment to wear a face covering, unless the customer has a medical reason for not doing so or is a child under two years of age;
  • Require that groups stay 6 feet apart, even in areas where groups are not assigned seating;
  • Prohibit smoking in any outdoor areas designated for consumption of food and/or beverages;
  • Adhere to all other health and safety protocols in DOH Executive Directive No. 20-019.

COVID-19 Protocols for Food or Beverage Establishments Offering Service in Indoor Areas

Effective at 6:00 a.m. on Friday, September 4, 2020, restaurants, cafeterias, dining establishments, and food courts, with or without a liquor license, bars, and all other holders of a liquor license with retail consumption privileges, collectively referred to as “food or beverage establishments,” are permitted to offer in-person service at indoor areas, provided that the establishment complies with the requirements set by Executive Order 183 and the NJ Department of Health Executive Directive 20-030. Below is a short list of policies for establishments to implement for indoor dining (see Guidance for more):

  • Limit the number of patrons in indoor areas to 25 percent of the food or beverage establishment’s indoor capacity, excluding the food or beverage establishment’s employees. Ensure that the new maximum occupancy limits are posted.
  • Post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19 should enter the establishment.
  • Ensure that tables where individuals or groups are seated are six feet (6 ft) apart in all directions from any other table or seat and that individual seats in any shared area that is not reserved for individual groups, such as an indoor bar area, are also six feet apart in all directions from any other table or seat.
  • Limit seating to a maximum of eight (8) customers per table (unless they are from a family from the same household).
  • Bar seating may be utilized if customers are seated and comply with physical distancing guideline of at least 6 ft between customers. Standing in a bar area is not permitted
  • Eliminate self-service food such as buffets and salad bars. Limit self-service drink stations to those that can be routinely and effectively cleaned and disinfected.
  • Customers must wear face coverings at all times, except where doing so would inhibit the individual’s health, or where the individual is under two years of age. When seated at their table or their individual seat, indoor patrons shall wear face coverings until their food or drinks arrive, and after individuals have finished consuming their food or drinks, they shall put their face coverings back on.
  • Decline entry to a customer who is not wearing a face covering, unless the customer has a medical reason for not doing so or is a child under two years of age.
  • Consider requiring reservations for greater control of customer traffic/volume.
  • Recommend customers to provide a phone number if making a reservation to facilitate contact tracing.

 Guidance for Employees
Food or beverage establishments offering service must impose the following requirements on employees:

  • Require employees to wash and/or sanitize their hands when entering the food or beverage establishment;
  • Conduct daily health checks (e.g. temperature screening and/or symptom checking) of employees safely and respectfully, and in accordance with any applicable privacy laws and regulations;
  • Require employees with symptoms of COVID-19 be sent home;
  • Require all employees to wear face coverings, except where doing so would inhibit the individual's health, or if it would create an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task (i.e. cooks that work near open flames);
  • Provide employees break time for repeated handwashing throughout the workday;
  • Provide sanitization materials, such as hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes to staff; and
  • Encourage employees to obtain COVID-19 testing. 

Additionally, a special ruling by the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) temporarily permits establishments with liquor licenses to expand their licensed premises into outdoor areas. To learn more, refer to the NJ ABC's special ruling.

For additional information on COVID-19's impact on businesses and mitigation requirements for businesses, please visit the State of New Jersey's COVID-19 Business Information Hub. 

Sources: Executive Order No. 150Executive Order No. 157ABC Special Ruling 2020-10DOH Executive Directive No. 20-019Executive Order No. 158, Executive Order No. 183, DOH Executive Directive 20-030

Social Distancing Calculator

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This calculator is provided to assist you in planning social distancing for your employees and customers. However, the results given by this calculator do not relieve you of your obligation to follow all applicable Public Health Orders as they apply to your space. The configuration of any given space (aisles, racks, etc.) may result in a lower actual capacity limit. It is up to each business to ensure compliance with all portions of current orders.

In order to maintain at least 6 feet of separation from each other when taking into account the unpredictable dynamics of each person's movement, this calculator uses a 12-foot grid distribution. 


NJ Department of Health

-Quick guidance document for bars and restaurants

Centers for Disease Control

- Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to COVID-19

- Information for Grocery and Retail Workers  

- Information for Food & Grocery Delivery & Pick-up Drivers 

Food and Drug Administration

- Best Practices for Retail Food Stores, Restaurants, and Food Pick-Up/Delivery Services

Best Practices for Re-opening Food Establishments During the COVID-19 Pandemic