Golden Corral Corp. began implementing additional measures in January at its scatter-buffet restaurant to address what has now become the coronavirus pandemic, the company said Thursday.
The Raleigh, N.C.-based scatter-buffet operator said it was following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and its own company task force that included sanitizing guest-facing surfaces every 30 minutes and changing utensils every half hour.
In Las Vegas, MGM Resorts International said earlier in that week that it would temporarily close buffets as of March 15 at the company's seven Strip properties: ARIA, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Luxor and Excalibur.
On Wednesday, MGM informed guests and employees that the Southern Nevada Health District had confirmed a case of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, involving a guest at The Mirage.
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s public health director, also on Wednesday said her department was suggesting deploying servers to work at self-serve buffets. Ferrer, according a report in Eater, urged the public to take precautions at self-serve stations.
Wynn Las Vegas also revised its food-handling procedures, saying effective Wednesday that The Buffet "will station culinary staff at each food station to serve guests, eliminating the need for guests to touch serving utensils. In addition, we are routinely cleaning all hard surfaces and have placed hand-sanitizing stations at the entrance for guests to utilize prior to entry."
Golden Corral said it had a “longstanding policy of not allowing employees to work if they show or report any signs of illness.” But the company said it also was:
- Placing co-workers at company-owned restaurants on paid leave for scheduled hours during a 14-day quarantine resulting from a confirmed diagnosis;
- Sanitizing the surfaces of all key guest touch-points every 30 minutes;
- Changing all serving utensils every 30 minutes;
- Following current cleaning procedures using proven and effective sanitizing products;
- Reinforcing stringent handwashing practices requiring employees to wash their hands every 20 minutes or between tasks; and,
- Making sure all hand sanitizer stations were stocked and operating properly, as well as adding additional sanitizing stations throughout the restaurant.
“The health, safety and well-being of our co-workers, guests and communities are always our top priority, and we are deeply committed to delivering on that promise,” said Lance Trenary, Golden Corral CEO, in a statement.
Trenary said the company is in communication with managers at all of its restaurants across the country and has set up an internal website to provide them with updated information and other guidelines as the situation evolves.
“Since this is a respiratory illness, the good news for all restaurants is that coronavirus cannot be contracted through ingesting food,” said Pamela Ritz, a certified food safety expert who is advising Golden Corral on its preparations for coronavirus.
"Consumers can also do a great deal to help protect themselves and prevent the spread of the disease when dining out,” Ritz continued, “including washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available; covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash; or cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands; and, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands."
Golden Corral, founded in 1973, has 483 restaurants in 40 states.
UPDATE March 13, 2020: This story has been edited to include food-handling procedure information from Wynn Las Vegas.
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