What Restaurateurs Need to Know About Sneeze Guard Height Requirements

Sneeze guards have been staples in restaurants long before the pandemic first hit. What originally started out as a solution to improve the health and safety of buffet-style dining quickly became a federally-mandated requirement.

Back in 1958, a restaurateur and self-proclaimed germaphobe named Johnny Garneu started looking for a solution that would block viruses and bacteria from contaminating food at the buffet tables while customers leaned over them. Having no luck, he decided to strike out and invent his own, patenting the product that year.

The sneeze guard was so effective and popular that the FDA later mandated that sneeze guards must be present in all self-service dining establishments. While they are still popular with self-service operations, COVID-19 has transformed them into something else entirely.

It is now critical that restaurants implement sneeze guard solutions within their establishments in order to increase safety, but it's equally important to make sure that the correct solution is installed and meets the right requirement.

Height and Angle

When searching for the right sneeze guard solution to install, it's important to consider the placement and positioning of the guard - namely the height and angle. To account for this, consider the height of your typical customer. Usually the average customer is somewhere between 5 and 6 feet tall. Also account for the height of the structure holding the guard.

As for the angle, it's important to consider whether customers are serving themselves, or are being served by others. In a cafeteria-like environment where employees are preparing food, a full-service sneeze guard will be ideal. For buffet and salad bards, a self-service sneeze guard would be the optimal choice.

Download our Restaurant Disaster Relief Checklist for full details on keeping your restaurant safe.

Regulations and Guidelines

Both full-service and self-service sneeze guards have guidelines and regulations for how they must be used. Some of these are federal guidelines, but most depend on specific region and locality. Check with local governing authorities for specific regulatory requirements for sneeze guards in your area.

Sometimes, you will find mandates for things like barrier thickness, materials, height requirements, and construction. You may also find instructions on how sneeze guards should be properly used and how often they must be replaced. In general, replace sneeze guards when they become cracked, scratched, or show other signs of wear and tear. For most restaurants, it's a good idea to go for an NSF-2 sneeze guard, which is the industry-accepted standard.

Visibility

It is a requirement that all food and staff behind the sneeze guard must be clearly visible to the customers. Damaged, scratched, or dirty sneeze guards can block the customer's view and can lead to complaints or confusion. Avoid negative impressions and prevent poor customer experiences by cleaning your sneeze guard regularly and ensuring any damaged components are fixed or replaced as soon as possible.

Choose the right sneeze guard solution for you restaurant

Beyond federal and local regulations and requirements for sneeze guards, there are many other factors to consider when choosing a solution to install:

Easy installation and relocation

Some solutions must be permanently mounted on countertops, requiring drilling into the countertop to fasten the sneeze guard to the surface. If you aren’t looking to permanently install a sneeze guard, or have little downtime for drilling, sneeze guard solutions exist that come with easy-to-mount stands that make them portable and reusable. Adjustable mounting poles make it easier to accommodate height requirements.

Adaptability

A sneeze guard at a checkout counter will require a wide enough gap to enable the safe passing and scanning of products between customer and employee. An adjustable mounting pole can make it easier to accommodate different environments, and can be adjusted accordingly to fit the cashier’s needs.

Make sure to consider where peripherals like pin pad terminals will be placed. Choose a solution that accommodates these peripheral hardware solutions without overcrowding the counter.

Durability

One of the most important considerations for selecting the right sneeze guard for your restaurant is durability. It’s critical that your sneeze guard can withstand the tough environments commonly found in restaurants. A steel frame is a must if you want your sneeze guard to last. Be sure to choose a plexiglass display as well. These are easy to clean and are both flexible and strong.

Compatibility with Mobility Solutions (Make it a Bundle!)

The final consideration is whether or not your sneeze guard pairs well with your existing POS or mobile POS terminals. Consider how much space you have available on your countertop, and whether or not the design is compact enough to fit your space.

If you need more than just a sneeze guard, make it a bundle with the Star Micronics POSShield. This sleek stand offers a small footprint and pairs well with the mC-Print receipt printers and mC-Sound kitchen buzzer. It also includes supplies to mount the PIN pad to the stand itself for extra space savings.

If you are interested in learning more about the Star Micronics POSShield, and how it can help keep your restaurant environment safe, contact the experts at Star Micronics today.

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