24 Mar 2020

Covid-19: Restaurants unsure about essential service restrictions

10:33 pm on 24 March 2020

The government has provided more clarity about what constitutes essential services as the deadline for the unprecedented nationwide shut down fast approaches.

empty restaurant

Photo: Unsplash / Andrew Seaman

MBIE deputy chief executive Paul Stocks said all restaurants, cafés and bars must close all aspects of their operation, including delivery.

"Food delivery services like Uber Eats and Deliver Easy pose a risk to human health. We cannot guarantee every kitchen operates strict food preparation controls or that everyone who works in a kitchen is well.

"Evidence overseas suggests the virus has been spread via poor food hygiene practices, so it's a real risk we have to eliminate."

However, the delivery of food that is not pre-cooked will be allowed because it is considered similar to supermarket deliveries of groceries.

Earlier, the government had asked all bars, restaurants and cafes to close, and for takeaway services to follow suit when the alert system moves to level four at midnight tomorrow, but the Restaurant Association's chief executive, Marisa Bidois, had some questions.

"We are just asking clarification from the government. We've already been in touch with several officers for clarification on the guidelines. It does include food delivery, but there hasn't been any confirmation as to whether that includes restaurants using Uber or other delivery services to keep delivering food to people."

Bidois said the advice was that food delivery could still operate, but she was wondering who was going to prepare the food if restaurants were shut.

She said the association had more than 2300 members and it was seeking answers as many were waiting to find out whether they remained open or not for delivery.

"We know it's a difficult time for everyone. But people still need to eat and we think that our industry can contribute to assisting feed our communities, our local communities, our essential service staff and really sort of be a part of assisting everyone through this difficult time," she said.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

McDonald's said its restaurants, deliveries and drive-through services around the country would be closed by midnight Wednesday.

Restaurant Brands said all Taco Bell and Carl's Jr would be closed from Tuesday evening, and it was also staggering the closure of KFC and Pizza Hut stores.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

Meal kit delivery company My Food Bag said it was experiencing a high demand for its services.

Chief executive Kevin Bowler said he was expecting more growth in the coming weeks.

"The last couple of weeks for My Food Bag has been the strongest in our history. And we were seeing that I think as a result of people really wanting to access quality food delivered to the door without having to have any interaction with other people."

Bowler said the company had made a long list of small changes to their procedures to ensure the safety of staff and customers.

"We're increasing the amount of cleaning we're providing people with more sanitization stations and equipment and more cleaning, more separation of people in the assembly areas so that we're working in smaller groups as well."

The government said it was working to further clarify what were essential services, and businesses can call its helpline on 0800 779 997 to confirm if they could stay open.

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