Restaurants and stores

3.6.2020 More information:  Regional State Administrative Agencies
email: koronainfo@avi.fi

Restaurants will again be allowed to serve food on their premises as from 1 June. However, provisions on restrictions concerning food and beverage service businesses will be laid down in a temporary amendment to the Communicable Diseases Act. The restrictions will not apply to staff restaurants or take-away sales of food and beverages. The act will enter into force on 1 June 2020 and it will stay in force until 31 October 2020.

Restaurants continue to be able to sell take-away meals to customers and to food courier service providers from their premises.

Is a private restaurant allowed to organise celebrations in its premises? 

Yes, it is. The restrictions governing food and beverage service businesses and their interpretations can be found on the website of the regional state administrative agencies. http://www.avi.fi/web/avi/usein-kysytyt-kysymykset (in Finnish)

The food control authority can inform the regional state administrative agency if violations of the restrictions are discovered.

Questions and answers related to the restrictions concerning restaurants on the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment website: https://tem.fi/en/questions-and-answers-on-closing-restaurants

Can breakfast be served to customers staying in a hotel? 

As from 1 June, serving breakfast on the hotel premises will be possible in compliance with the restrictions set out to food and beverage service businesses. 

Staff restaurants and site canteens

As from 1 June, all restaurants will again be allowed to serve food on their premises. However, provisions on restrictions concerning food and beverage service businesses will be laid down in a temporary amendment to the Communicable Diseases Act. Nevertheless, these restrictions do not apply to staff restaurant activities or takeaway sales of food and beverages. The customers of a staff restaurant comprise the personnel of a specific community, foundation or institute or a group of people that is limited in some other way. Such staff restaurants include the canteens of daycare centres, schools, hospitals and prisons and the staff restaurants of industrial plants.

A staff restaurant is not a public lunch restaurant in which anyone can have a meal. Instead, it has to be restricted for the use of the personnel of a specific workplace.                         

The above-mentioned places serving food must take into account THL's general instructions for the prevention of infections when serving food. Below you will find instructions for organisers of staff restaurants:

  • Remind everyone that they should enter the restaurant only after they have carefully washed their hands
  • Place hand sanitisers to the beginning of the buffet line, if possible
  • If possible, stagger the meal hours and remind everyone about maintaining a safe social distance
  • If possible, switch from self-service buffets to portions served by the personnel
  • If you use self-service buffets, replace or wash the utensils more frequently or use disposable utensils, if possible
  • Clean the surfaces that people touch (also spice shakers, butter knives, etc.) more frequently
  • At meals, people should keep as much social distance as possible

Setting up a staff restaurant 

Can the restaurant of a petrol station be made into a staff restaurant for the employees of a nearby construction site?

The establishment or opening of new staff restaurants (or takeaway restaurants) has not been restricted.

According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, what is decisive when assessing whether the operations can be considered to be staff restaurant operations permitted in legislation is whether the restaurant is open to outsiders or only to a limited group of people. Staff restaurant operations mean meals organised for the community’s own personnel or a group of people that is limited in some other way. For example, a staff restaurant is a restaurant serving the personnel of a certain workplace or parties limited in some other way and it is not open to outsiders. A limited group of people has not been defined in more detail in legislation. Therefore, a limited group of people may as a rule also consist of the personnel of several workplaces as long as the restaurant is not open to outsiders.

More answers are available at The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.  

If the restaurant/petrol station has a separate space/room that is reserved only for a specific group (for example, people working at a certain workplace), this space/room can be considered a staff restaurant. Most importantly, it must be possible to minimise contacts that cause a risk of infection as much as possible. A staff restaurant cannot be open to outsiders and the use of the facilities must be clearly restricted from other customers of the petrol station and customers picking up takeaway food. Restaurant keepers must decide themselves how sufficient restrictions will be carried out. Takeaway sales of food is also permitted to other customers than those with the right to have a meal on the premises of the staff restaurant.

The operator should contact the food control authority in the municipality to inform the authority about continued operations in the emergency conditions. 

Customer seating in kiosk and outdoor market sales

When restaurants reopen on 1 June, customer seating outdoors or indoors can be provided to customers also in kiosk or outdoor market sales in compliance with the restrictions set out for food and beverage service businesses. The operator must organise the sales and the serving in a manner that does not lead to contacts causing a risk of infection.  Customers must be instructed to keep a safe social distance. 
More information:  Regional State Administrative Agencies

Can I prepare take-away meals for sale to consumers in my home without a food premises notification while the state of emergency is ongoing?

If you prepare meals for sale in your home, you need to file a food premises notification to your municipality’s food control authorities informing of the food establishment operation. After filing the notification, food inspectors may visit to provide advice and instructions or supervise the operation if necessary. As a rule, such operations are subject to the same requirements as other food premises.

Food handling and information to be provided on food

Due to the ongoing state of emergency, however, the food premises notification need not be filed until four weeks after starting the operation. The operation can start immediately after filing the notification.

Why are there plexiglass screens at checkouts in some grocery stores?

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (TTL) has issued instructions on avoiding infection in customer service situations, including installing plexiglass. The instructions are available on the TTL website. The instructions issued by TTL apply to all service sectors that involve close contact with customers, not only grocery stores. Finnish Institute of Occupational Health instructions for service sectors.

Can the COVID-19 coronavirus be transmitted through surfaces or utensils? 

In most cases, the virus transmits between people through droplets in close contact. The virus may last on surfaces, and infection is possible also through contact with surfaces such as door handles or utensils that have been contaminated by droplets coughed by an infected person. However, this is not considered to be the main mode of transmission. For more information on enhanced cleaning of customer premises, visit the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health website.

Customer premises

Surfaces touched by customers (door handles, railings, chairs, tables, payment terminals, toilet and bathroom facilities, etc.) must be cleaned carefully and as often as possible. Buttons and handles that come into contact with customers must be cleaned more frequently than normal.

More information:  Regional State Administrative Agencies

Can pick 'n' mix sweets be packed into bags on store premises?

Pick 'n' mix sweets can be packed into bags for sale to customers in grocery stores. Bagging sweets can be performed by food industry employees, such as the store’s staff or the sweet manufacturer’s employees. The following issues should be kept in mind when bagging sweets:

  • include the activity in self-monitoring
  • remember good hand hygiene
  • bagging sweets should be done in the store’s back room using clean utensils
  • bag sweets from containers that have not been out in the pick 'n' mix counter and within reach of customers
  • take steps to prevent contamination by allergens
  • when bagging sweets for immediate sale to speed up and facilitate sales, give the following information on the bag: name of the food, ingredients, country of origin (if other than Finland) and necessary instructions on use and storage. It is also possible to provide the information verbally if it is indicated by a sign or similar manner in the vicinity of the non-prepacked items that the information is provided by staff upon request.
  • when bagging sweets for non-immediate sales, all mandatory labelling (in Finnish) on the sweets must be provided to customers.

What should I keep in mind if a restaurant delivers cooled and packed lunches or other meals to the store for sale on the shelf or over a service counter?

  • if the food establishment’s operations change, consult the following instructions by the Finnish Food Authority and contact your municipality’s food control authority.
  • During the state of emergency, restaurants can deliver meals and prepacked food to stores for sale without restrictions on volume.
  • Particular attention should be given to temperature regulation:
    • If the food is delivered to the store cold, the food must be refrigerated at the restaurant to +6°C in four hours, and the cold chain must remain unbroken up to the consumer
    • If the food is delivered to the store heated, food temperature must remain at least +60°C up until the food reaches the consumer
  • Things to note on product labelling:
    • If food is sold to consumers in prepacked meals, the packaging must contain all mandatory food labelling information, with the exception of the nutrition declaration. Information on allergens (inFinnish) must stand out clearly in the labelling.
    • If the restaurant has not carried out shelf life tests, the turnover time of products should be kept short (max. production day + two days after that) to ensure that food stays fresh.
    • If food is sold to consumers at a service counter by the store’s staff, the minimum requirement is to include a sign near the counter instructing customers to “ask a member of staff about allergens and other information”. If this is done, staff members must be able to provide consumers with the food’s name, list of ingredients, substances that cause allergies and intolerances, the country of origin if necessary, and instructions on use and storage.
  • Things to note about packaging materials
    • Select packaging materials that are suitable for contact with food. To find out whether a material is suitable for use with food, look for a wine glass and a fork symbol or consult the packaging material’s name or other written labelling.
    • Packaging materials must be stored in a sheltered and clean space.

Can restaurants deliver food to customers by private car?

Restaurants may use private cars in personal use to deliver food as long as this does not pose a risk to food safety. Food must be packed in clean storage containers or dishes for transport. When transporting food that must be cooled or heated during storage, a clean polystyrene container, cool box or similar means should be used to ensure correct food temperature during transport. It is also recommended to protect the storage containers and dishes during transport with a clean cover, such as a protective cloth, tarpaulin or similar.

How should employees take care of hygiene when working in premises used for handling food?

Hand hygiene

When working at a food establishment, it is particularly important that hands are washed with water and soap thoroughly and frequently. Avoid touching your face. Always wash hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.  Follow the Finnish Food Authority’s instructions on washing hands. Be sure to also read the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s handwashing instructions.

Remember to only handle food, cooking utensils and serving dishes with clean, healthy hands.

Using disposable gloves when handling food

The purpose of protective gloves is to protect food from dirt and microbes passed on by touch. Gloves are often used to cover the hands when handling food. If protective gloves are used, their hygiene must be ensured and the gloves must be disposed and replaced sufficiently often, particularly to prevent cross-contamination. Protective gloves must be used particularly when handling non-prepacked food if you have an infected wound in your hand or use artificial nails or jewellery. Regardless of whether protective gloves are used, you should wash hands regularly.

If you do not have access to your usual type of disposable glove and need to switch to a new product, be sure to check that the new gloves are suitable for their intended use in handling food. The suitability of disposable gloves for their intended use should be ensured particularly if the gloves are used to handle greasy and/or hot foods. To check whether the gloves can be used in handling food, see the print on the packaging or look for a symbol of a wine glass and a fork. The packaging should also indicate if there are limitations on use of the gloves for handling food, such as the characteristics of the food being handled or limits on contact time. The law requires that the packaging for vinyl PVC gloves not suitable for handling greasy foods must include the disclaimer “not suitable for handling greasy food” or an equivalent phrase. However, as the labelling of vinyl gloves is often incomplete in this respect, you should check suitability with the supplier when necessary.

Staff training

Good food hygiene must always be followed in food production in order to ensure that the food is safe, healthy and clean. Employees may not come in sick even when only experiencing minor flu symptoms. All members of staff should be reminded of good hygiene practices at work. Any temporary workers should also be trained on workplace hygiene. Your occupational healthcare provider is responsible for instructions related to employees’ health.

When can a food industry worker returning from abroad return to work at a restaurant?

The Government has decreed that Finnish citizens and permanent residents returning from abroad are instructed to remain in quarantine-like conditions for two weeks.  Employees returning from abroad must agree on the date of returning to work and the two-week absence with their employer.

Further information is available on the Finnish Institution of Occupational Health website

In other words, restaurant workers coming back from abroad cannot work in a restaurant for two weeks after returning to Finland.

 

Page last updated 8/20/2020