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May 21, 2020

Reopening checklist help offered by HospitalityMaine, EMCC

Courtesy / Blind Pig Tavern Facebook page As restaurants reopen to dining, with restrictions, HospitalityMaine and Eastern Maine Community College have partnered on an online course to help restaurant employees learn the state's checklist.
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HospitalityMaine and Eastern Maine Community College are rolling out a course this week that will help restaurant owners and their employees master the four-page checklist necessary for reopening.

A similar free course will soon be available for hotels and inns.

Steve Hewins, CEO of HospitalityMaine, which represents more than 1,000 members in the restaurant and lodging industries, said training was the one thing missing on the lengthy checklist put together by the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

"We need to train consistently, and we're going to train exactly to the checklist," he told Mainebiz. EMCC, in Bangor, had the resources to make it happen and "dropped everything" to get the course set up in a matter of about 10 days, he said.

Hewins said the course may be available as early as Thursday. Once restaurant staff have completed the course, the restaurant gets a certificate that it can display online and on-site.

A big factor in reopening is customer confidence, he said. "Customers need to feel that it's being taken seriously."

The restaurant industry is already health-focused, according to Hewins, with a variety of regulations and processes under the ServSafe program of the U.S. National Restaurant Association. "The checklist is already what a lot of restaurants are doing for best practices."

Not only will a course for the lodging industry follow soon, but there will also be more advanced courses, including "train the trainer" instruction. Hewins said college credits will also be associated with course completion.

Restaurants were given the go-ahead to open Monday in 12 of the state's 16 counties. Restaurants in the other four counties — Androscoggin, Cumberland, Penobscot and York — can open June 1. The requirements range from cleanliness and distancing measures to ways to manage customer flow and more.

Last week, seven tourism-associated groups in the state, including HospitalityMaine, sent an open letter to Gov. Janet Mills asking that the state lift the 14-day mandated quarantine on out-of-state visitors. The letter also vowed that the industry members would follow health and safety guidelines of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We made a promise in that letter," Hewins said this week. "People need to believe we're serious." He said ensuring the proper training is a major factor.

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