Essential HVAC and spatial planning checklists for restaurants.

Aug 04 2020 | Daniel Chapman, Senior Interior Designer, CORE architecture + design

The industry paradigm is completely changing and there’s no going back to a world before the pandemic hit us. There is only moving forward. That said, the mindset for reopening your business is not far different from opening your business. You’ll need to put new Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) in place, train staff, and on top, educate customers. Business survival and prosperity in the new normal will count on how well you engage with your local community and leverage technology.
At CORE architecture + design, we have been consulting with restaurants on how to re-open in a way to gain and sustain trust from customers. Below we’ll cover HVAC and space planning strategies, but for a full presentation on a safe reopening strategy, you can watch the webinar and get the full presentation
HVAC checklist for re-opening.
  • Keep windows open if you have them.
  • Run your HVAC system 24/7 to flush out the space.
  • Contact your HVAC service company to see if your system can accomplish these easy adjustments without damage.
  • Increase the outside air ventilation rate from 15% to 30%.
  • Adjust CO2 level controllers to a set point of 800 ppm or lower.
  • Replace filters with MERV 8 rated or higher (13 is ideal), but may not fit in unit or may create pressure drop.
  • Maintain a safe zone of 40-60% RH (relative humidity) in your space.
  • Expect higher utility costs and filter costs.
  • Change filters monthly.
  • Install UVGI light up high in space to kill airborne virus (run only when space is empty, light is harmful to the eyes).
  • Install UVGI lights within air handling units (or in duct after each unit).
  • Highly effective, but a high first cost (approx. $10,000 each).
  • Prioritize biggest units, and kitchen units last since hood is exhausting kitchen at a higher rate.
Also look into resources provided by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). They’re a trusted, authoritative resource for the latest HVAC best practices related to COVID-19.

Spatial planning checklist for re-opening.
  • Give more space at entry/exit points.
  • Assess congregation points: restroom waiting areas, POS, and server stations.
  • Create space outside of restrooms.
  • Limit number of POS/server stations and separate from guests.
  • Create wider pathways and separate pathways: guests/staff, dine-in/takeout.
  • Convert bars to takeout order staging/curbside runner station (remove bar seating).
  • Open kitchens: install temporary sneeze guards, rethink expo area.
  • Eliminate tables near food expediting and dish return pathways (kitchen entries).
  • Eliminate tables near restrooms.
  • Eliminate tables near host/entry area.
  • Avoid communal guest-use stations for water, condiments, etc.
  • In areas where seating is not safe to utilize, use as overflow storage/staging.
  • Identify outdoor dining opportunities: separate tables from one another and public walkway.
If you’d also like to see solutions for seating, we offer three diagrams in our webinar presentation.
About CORE architecture + design.
CORE architecture + design has been working with hospitality operators across the country these past months, advising on spatial strategies to increase guest, customer, and staff safety. Visit CORE’s
reopening resource center to gain insights on spatial considerations for a new mode of operating safely, shifting business models and new demands on space, and learn about concerns that operators at the forefront of reopening have been sharing with us.
The contents of this site are provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent, professional accounting, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.

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