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Food businesses

Information for grocery stores, restaurants and other food premises for employers and workers.

Last updated: October 29, 2021 

Prevention measures for all food businesses

In Step 3 of the provincial Restart Plan, employers should have  communicable disease plans in place. Communicable disease plans should address worker illness policy, hand hygiene, vaccine promotion and other elements. 

Review WorkSafe BC guidance. More information can be found on the Employers & Businesses page.

Some events, services and businesses are now required to check a person's proof of vaccination for access to their venue or space. 

Customers are required to provide their BC Vaccine Card to enter licensed restaurants and food premises offering table service.

Detailed information can be found in the PHO Orders:

Businesses can find information on proof of vaccination requirements at:

Getting immunized against COVID-19 by getting two doses of the vaccine is the most effective way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. 

All food premises and businesses are required to have a Sanitation Plan under section 24 of the Food Premises Regulation  Routine cleaning and normal sanitation practices should be implemented.

Document and follow cleaning practices that will reduce risks of communicable disease and food-borne illness. This may include more frequent cleaning of high touch surfaces, such as POS systems, bulk bin handles, garbage can lids, elevator buttons, high touch surfaces on bottled water filling machine, etc..

All operators are expected to update and maintain their sanitation plans.

For further information about surface (fomite) transmission risk, please see this evidence review from NCCEH: Fomites and the COVID-19 pandemic: An evidence review on its role in viral transmission
  • Employees should practice good hand hygiene including frequent hand washing, as well as coughing or sneezing into your elbow rather than hands.
  • Provision of alcohol-based hand rubs in food premises for patrons is recommended.
  • Ensure washrooms are stocked with liquid soap and paper towels at all times, and that warm running water is available.
  • Wearing a mask is required in all indoor public spaces for people age 5 and up (born in 2016 or earlier) regardless of vaccination status including in coffee shops, restaurants, public and bars when not seated at a tale.

    • Masks may be removed temporarily for identifying the individual wearing the mask or while eating or drinking at a designated location.
  • Masks are optional for children aged 2-4 and children under 2 should not wear masks.
  • Find the PHO Order on Face Coverings.

  • Provide hand washing or hand sanitizing near the station,
  • Post signs about hand hygiene and physical distancing measures, and
  • Implement a frequent cleaning and sanitizing of the station and utensils used at the station.

‎COVID-19 transmission from handling reusable containers such as grocery bags, coffee mugs, dollar bills, coins, bulk bins and other reusable items HAS NOT BEEN DOCUMENTED. There are transmissions linked to touching shared surfaces, such as elevator buttons or lids of garbage cans.

Because the risk is low, premises may go back to normal activities as long as practices known to reduce overall risk are maintained.


Permitted activities include:

  • accept and fill reusable coffee mugs and water bottles,
  • allow reusable containers for take-away per provincial policy (must be described in food premises food safety or sanitation plan)
  • allow reusable grocery bags,
  • pack grocery bags for customers requiring assistance,
  • allow customer self-serve of bakery items, beverages, utensils and other items,
  • accept cash in the form of bills and coins, 
  • accept returnable cans and bottles for deposit, and
  • put menus, salt and pepper shakers, ketchup bottles etc. back onto the table, and ensure cleaning occurs regularly.

Practices recommended include:

  • cleaning of highly touched surfaces per the sanitation plan,
  • frequent hand-washing,
  • providing hand hygiene for customers,
  • maintain physical distancing  or use of barriers, and
  • improving ventilation for customers and workers.

These measures should be documented in sanitation and communicable disease plans.


For further information about surface (fomite) transmission risk, please see this evidence review from NCCEH: Fomites and the COVID-19 pandemic: An evidence review on its role in viral transmission

Retail grocery stores should consult the Worksafe BC protocols for retail operation and follow the PHO orders for retail businesses under section L of the Gathering and Events order.

  • Follow physical distancing requirements as described below on this page that limit capacity (five square metres of space for patrons and staff); document this number in the COVID-19 safety plan and ensure these numbers are not exceeded,
  • In premises with less than five square meters of space, a maximum of one patron may enter and this number must be documented in the COVID-19 safety plan,
  • Persons that cannot be safely accommodated, if advised by the owner or staff, must not enter and should leave if requested,
  • Where practical provide signs and barriers to allow two metre distance between customers and to avoid congregation of patrons,
  • Provide hand sanitation.

Restaurants and food-serving premises

Restaurants and other premises (cafes, coffee shops, cafeterias pubs, private clubs, pubs, bars, lounges and nightclubs, liquor tasting at distilleries or manufacturers) serving food and/or alcohol are open with some restrictions. 

Reminder: Operators are advised to keep some safety measures in place if they do not interfere with operations. For example, the use of barriers in restaurants and food premises between customers or customers and staff is also advised.

  • If patrons consume food or drink on the premises, there must be sufficient seating for them.
  • Prevent congregation inside and outside the premises.
  • Customers are not required to remain seated unless regional restrictions are in place.
In addition to the prevention requirements for all food businesses described above, indoor events at banquet halls and other premises that include food services may occur according to Part C of the Gathering and Events Order with these measures in place: 
  • Documented communicable disease plan, food safety plan and sanitation plan.
  • There must be an organizer and access to the event is controlled. 
  • Events where proof of vaccination is required can return to full capacity unless additional regional restrictions are in place.
  • There must be seating for each participant.
  • Use all available space, and we recommend to calculate space available based on 5 metre squared per person.
  • Hand sanitation supplies are available, and toilet facilities include water, soap and paper towels.
  • Participants may not dance, and dance floors must be closed, unless they are used for a performance.
  • Participants must follow guidance of organizers and staff.
Further recommendations not specified in the Orders include:
  • Maintain a 2 metre separation between tables or use barriers. 
  • Clean, sanitize and ventilate between events.

For full details see the Gathering and Events Order.


  • Physical distancing is recommended, otherwise restrictions on performances are removed.


  • Patrons must remain seated, 
  • Socializing between tables is not permitted, and 
  • Dancing is not permitted.
Suitable barriers may be used in areas where a 2 metre physical distancing cannot be used. Suitable should be rigid, impermeable, cleanable and be able to protect seated and standing persons from the transmission of droplets from other persons. More information about suitable barriers can be found in the WorkSafe document COVID-19 health and safety Designing effective barriers.

Barriers may be used in place of 2 metre physical distancing and are also useful at check-outs and any areas where the spread of COVID-19 respiratory droplets may occur. Barriers should be in place between customers unless they are in the same party.

Related information and guidance

SOURCE: Food businesses ( )
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