Managing Common Air Quality Issues in Restaurants
By Bendegul Okumus Associate Professor, UCF Rosen College & Hospitality Mgmt. | January 2023
Many hospitality businesses have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), nearly three million restaurant workers were laid off, the industry lost $240 billion in revenue in 2020, and about 110,000 restaurants closed down since the beginning of the pandemic.
Consequently, restaurants and bars are always seen as risky places, especially since they serve food and drinks to people with or without masks.
Therefore, hygiene practices are crucial for attracting more customers to food service establishments in this sector. Cleaning and hygiene reports are given by inspectors after examining many aspects of restaurants. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of indoor air quality and healthy building initiatives, as well as hygiene inspections. Restricted restaurant services in the United States have returned to normal since the fall of 2020, and restaurant indoor air quality has become more critical in post-pandemic (re)opening plans. Although customers pay more attention to cleanliness and hygiene conditions, air quality in restaurants is often neglected.
Among all restaurant types, open-kitchen restaurants have become very popular in recent years for their apparent cleanliness, safety, and health. Open kitchens have become a popular design option for many restaurateurs looking to provide fast and quality food service options. Customers can see how and by whom the food is cooked in open-kitchen restaurants, unlike the horror stories they often hear about dirty kitchens. Steam, appetizing smells, cooking sights/sounds, and the open view of the kitchen are the main reasons customers prefer such restaurants.
However, as the concept of open kitchens has proliferated, certain levels of public health disturbance have emerged, especially regarding cooking fumes. Cooking fumes increase the particulate matter (PM) in the air, which is one of the most important public health threats both at home and in commercial kitchens. Other air pollutants such as Carbon monoxide (CO), Carbon dioxide (CO2), Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and Sulfur dioxide gas (SO2) were also recorded at very high levels, particularly in the chimneys of grill restaurants and in the surrounding ambient air.