In today’s world, it’s never been more true that food safety can make or break a foodservice operation’s success. And while tackling food safety in its entirety involves a lot of different areas, your ability to protect your customer’s food from both biological and physical contaminants remains a big piece of the food-safety puzzle.
To address this critical need, many operations are purchasing sneeze guards. Thinking of joining them? Well, that’s a great idea, but there are a few things to get your head around before taking the sneeze guard purchasing plunge. Here’s what you need to know.
A quick recap: What are sneeze guards?
Let’s start with the basics. Sneeze guards are everywhere, right? You see them separating cashiers from customers, receptionists from patients and even rooms from other rooms. The pandemic brought about this widespread use of sneeze guards, but the traditional (and only required) use of these protective barriers is within the realm of foodservice.
As you may know, sneeze guards are clear shields made from tempered glass or acrylic plexiglass. In the foodservice world, they help block respiratory droplets and other unsavory things (hair, gum, a sparkly earring, etc.) from getting onto food. So, when a hotel pan of tasty lasagna, creamy chicken fricassée or crispy green salad is placed behind a sneeze guard, they stay safe from outside contaminants — while ensuring staff and customers can easily see all of your tasty menu items on display.
Why use sneeze guards?
If the above reasons weren’t enough, most state and local health departments require sneeze guards whenever food is in direct customer contact, like at a buffet, cafeteria line or catering gig. No doubt, safety regulations protect the health of diners, but they also increase customer confidence (quite the win-win). In fact, a recent Ecolab survey found that 80% of customers think it is important for foodservice operations to “prevent the spread of germs.” Sneeze guards are just one more way to show customers that you value their health and are taking the necessary measures to keep their food safe.
What to think about before buying a sneeze guard
Now that we’ve given you a refresher on what sneeze guards are and why they’re important, let’s take a closer look at four questions to ask yourself before investing in a foodservice sneeze guard.
1. Full-service or self-serve?
When considering what type of sneeze guard might work best, the first thing to think about is the kind of operation you’re running. Do you have a full-service eatery where employees carve up mouthwatering beef brisket, assemble tasty burritos or serve each guest a portion of heavenly garlic mashed potatoes? A sneeze guard designed specifically for full-service, staff-served environments may be the best option. Look for a solution, such as Hatco’s ED20 Flav-R-Shield™ Full-Service Pass-Over Sneeze Guard, that protects food on all customer-facing sides, allowing only employees to access and serve the menu items.
On the flip side, do your guests portion up their own vegetable fried rice, butter chicken or tasty green beans on a buffet or university cafeteria line? If that’s the case, a self-service option like Hatco’s ES29 Flav-R-Shield™ Self-Service Sneeze Guard might be your best bet. This shield is available in a one or two-sided configuration, both of which keep menu items protected while giving customers just the right amount of space to serve themselves.
2. Built-in or portable?
Once you’ve determined if a full- or self-service sneeze guard (or a combo of both) best meets your needs, the next thing to weigh is built-in vs. portable options. Are you regularly serving students and staff on a cafeteria line? You might prefer a built-in option like Hatco’s ES73 Flav-R-Shield™ Self-Service Sneeze Guard. Stationary solutions like this can save time because daily setup isn't necessary and the service line can stay intact.
Alternatively, establishments that offer only the occasional brunch buffet or businesses that cater events would likely desire portable sneeze guards that are mobile and can easily be moved around and then stored away when not in service.
3. What about the serving space?
Knowing which type of sneeze guard will work best for your operation’s service model is important, but don’t put in that order just yet. What’s the famous carpenter's saying? “Measure, measure and then measure again.” Yup, that’s also true when purchasing a sneeze guard.
Before specifying your sneeze guard order, measure the height, width and depth of your service area to ensure you’re ordering the right sized guard. But don’t worry; there's plenty of different sizes and configurations to choose from. In addition, some manufacturers have fully customizable sneeze guard sizes. For example, Hatco's sneeze guards come in a huge variety of widths and post heights, allowing you to order exactly what your operation needs. That said, measurements aren’t just about the equipment fitting nicely into a space. Some of those measurements are critical for health and safety compliance. So be sure that whatever sneeze guard or guards you buy (as well as the installation) meets all state and local health department regulations.
4. Are you thinking long-term?
Foodservice is tough, and getting it done right requires quality equipment. Be smart with your investment and look for sneeze guards crafted from tempered glass. Tempered glass is less likely to scratch or crack and break because of its inert (chemically inactive) properties that make it incredibly durable and scratch resistant. Purchasing guards made with stainless steel posts (instead of plastic or aluminum) will also lengthen the unit’s life. Go with this dynamic duo of tempered glass and stainless steel and you’re sure to bring long-lasting quality, no matter what (or who) your sneeze guard comes in contact with.
Getting it right.
There’s no doubt that durability and well-crafted foodservice equipment make a difference. And with over 70 years of experience in the industry, Hatco knows a thing or two about getting it right for their customers. All of Hatco’s sneeze guard components are meticulously made in-house and we temper each piece of glass. This provides flexibility in design and lightning-speed turnaround time. What’s more, Hatco precision-bends all their stainless steel posts to make them stronger and easier to clean.