COVID-19 vaccine

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Restaurant and mobile food cart guidance

Restaurant and mobile food cart guidance

The following is intended as a plain-language summary of rules during the COVID-19 emergency and does not replace the need to follow all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

Indoor and outdoor dining and walk-up ordering at restaurants and mobile food vendors, including food trucks, are permitted, provided that: (i) all applicable health and safety requirements and guidance are followed, including but not limited to physical distancing and mandatory masking for employees and customers; (ii) and all applicable regulatory requirements are met, including but not limited to licensing and permitting requirements.

In particular, restaurants must follow requirements in PA Guidance for Businesses in the Restaurant Industry Permitted to Operate during the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency. Businesses must obtain any permits or other authorization, as required, to serve food and beverages outside of physical indoor service areas.


Protections Needed


  • Require all employees and customers to mask while on site, except while:
    • Customers are eating and drinking while seated at a table.
    • Employees are eating or drinking during break times. Employees should be seated at least 6 feet from others when taking off their mask.
  • Provide masks for employees.
  • Indoor wait staff should wear face shields and/or goggles, as well as a mask.


  • Install physical barriers such as sneeze guards or partitions in restaurant kitchens and at cash registers, host stands, or food pickup areas where maintaining physical distance of at least 6 feet is difficult.
  • Barriers can be used to replace 6 feet distance only between booths and only if barriers extend to the ceiling.
  • Barriers must be placed between customers and bartenders if offering bar seating. Barriers are not needed if the bartender is wearing both a mask and face shield.


  • Screen employees for symptoms before every shift and prevent them from remaining on site if they have cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, muscle pain, or new loss of taste or smell.
  • It is not necessary to conduct on site temperature measurement for staff or customers. If you measure temperatures, use a no-touch thermometer, and do not allow anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher to remain on site.
  • Share information with staff about the location of free COVID-19 test sites.
  • Before allowing entrance to a dining area, ask customers if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the past 10 days.  See CDC quarantine guidance for more information.
  • Have sick leave policies in place so that employees excluded from the workplace do not lose earnings.
  • If an employee develops COVID-19 infection or has a positive test, businesses and other organizations must take additional precautions to stop the virus from spreading further.


  • Adjust work assignments to ensure employees can stay at least 6 feet from each other throughout their shifts.
  • Establish procedures to prevent crowding at entrances among persons waiting for food or tables.
    • Consider the use of sidewalk decals or other visual cues to encourage customers to stay at least 6 feet apart and at least 6 feet from seated diners.
  • Indoor dining parties must be limited in size to 6 people or fewer.
  • Outdoor dining parties must be limited to 10 people or fewer.
  • Groups of up to 6 customers may be seated together at an indoor bar. They must be physically distanced at least 6 feet from any other group.
  • Customers should remain seated and may not stand and congregate while in the restaurant.
  • Alcohol may only be served when also ordering food.
  • Employees should stay at least 6 feet from customers when possible. Deliver items to tables on service trays to minimize the time staff are close to customers.
  • Place signage at former smoking and vaping areas to indicate that they are closed to avoid creating gathering spots.

Reduce crowds

  • Configure chairs and tables so that customers sitting at a table are not within 6 feet of any attendee sitting at another table.
  • Limit indoor seating to 50% of the stated fire code occupancy for seated dining. If the lawful occupancy is unknown, then the density must not exceed 1 person per 30 square feet in the dining area including staff.
  • Restaurants may increase indoor seating capacity to 75% if the criteria are met in the Enhanced Ventilation Standards for Indoor Dining and Application Form for Increased Dining Capacity (PDF). The accompanying application form must be completed and returned to Environmental Health Services (EHS).
  • Restaurants seeking to have more than 50 people seated outdoors must have their outdoor seating plans approved by submitting an outdoor seating application (PDF) to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. Refer to the City’s more detailed outdoor dining guidelines (PDF).
  • Promote online ordering, curbside pickup, and delivery options.
  • Establishments are required to be closed for service by midnight. Last call for dining orders is at 11 pm.
  • If possible, use a reservation or call ahead model.
    • Best practice: ask all diners to give their name and cell phone number. This will ease contact tracing, if needed.
  • Restaurants and food vendors shall not permit lines of more than 10 customers to form in or around their facilities.
  • Outdoor dining sites must plan for inclement weather. It will not be permissible for customers to crowd together if it rains.
  • If possible, group employees in clusters and schedule groups on same shifts to reduce cross-team exposure.
  • Stagger employee break times.
  • If live entertainment occurs in a restaurant, that restaurant must follow the Indoor live theater, music venue, and movie theater guidance. Density limits must be reduced to those allowed by the live theater and music venue guidance and attendees must be exclusively seated in assigned seating for the duration of the event.
  • Indoor gatherings, events, or celebrations of a group of more than 6 should follow indoor guidance in Catered events, weddings & celebrations guidance.
  • Outdoor gatherings of a group of more than 10 should follow outdoor guidance in Catered events, weddings & celebrations guidance.  


  • Ensure that all staff wash hands on arrival and in accordance with pre-existing food safety regulations (e.g. before, during, and after preparing food; after touching garbage).
  • Place hand sanitizer near payment counter and make handwashing facilities available to all patrons at outdoor dining sites.
  • Place handwashing stations or hand sanitizer at entry and outside communal bathrooms for all staff and patrons with prominent signage promoting use.


  • Continue to follow all Department of Public Health Food safety regulations.
  • Clean high-touch areas with disinfectant regularly. See current CDC guidelines for more details.
  • Clean and sanitize any shared items with which customers will come in contact such as tabletops, chairs, digital menus, digital payment devices after each customer use.
  • Place settings, utensils, menus, and condiments should either be single-use or be cleaned and sanitized after every use.
  • Use single packet condiments, if possible, OR serve condiments in containers – such as a washable bowl or paper cup – that can be sanitized or disposed of after use (no shared condiments permitted).
  • Temporarily close self-serve buffets, toppings bars, drink dispensers and other communal serving areas.
  • Customers should handle their own leftover food to be taken to-go.


  • If possible, increase ventilation in the building by either:
    • Opening windows and/or doors on opposite sides of the building and using fans to blow outside air through the building, OR
    • Optimizing ventilation provided by the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system by:
      • Having the HVAC system checked to assure that it is working properly. If it can be adjusted, the system should be set to provide at least 6 air exchanges per hour.
      • Maximizing the amount of outside air circulated by the system.
      • Installing filters with minimum efficiency reporting values (MERV) of the highest value compatible with filter rack.
  • Read full Enhanced Ventilation Standards for Indoor Dining / Application Form for Increased Dining Capacity (PDF).
  • Use the Restaurant Ventilation/ACH Calculator (Excel) to calculate Restaurant Ventilation/Air Exchanges per Hour.


  • Educate staff about symptoms and prevention of COVID-19.
  • Remind staff who are sick or have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 within the past 10 days to stay home and follow CDC quarantine guidelines. Staff without any symptoms may end their quarantine period after:
    • Day 10 without testing, OR
    • Day 7 after receiving a negative test result (lab-based or rapid) after day 5.
  • Staff who have been fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine when exposed to someone with COVID-19 if they meet the following criteria:
    • They are fully vaccinated, and it’s been at least 2 weeks after the last dose in the vaccine series.
    • They have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure.
  • Vaccination is not 100% effective.
    • Anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms should get tested.
    • Anyone who is positive for COVID-19 must isolate according to CDC guidelines.
    • After vaccination you must still wear a mask, keep your distance, and avoid crowds.
  • Encourage customers to download and turn on the PA exposure notification app COVID Alert PA to help with contact tracing.
  • Post prominent signs at entrances and in employee break rooms:
    • Mandating that all staff and visitors wear masks.
    • Mandating physical distancing of at least 6 feet.
    • Encouraging people to cover coughs or sneezes.

See also:

  • Text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to receive updates to your phone.
  • Call (800) 722-7112 to speak to a health care professional on the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline.