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Momofuku CEO Develops Restaurant Reopening Health Guide


Coronavirus cases are spiking across the country, but some states are moving forward with reopening plans. Some are allowing restaurants to return to indoor dining.

MARGUERITE MARISCAL: Everyone's rapidly learning from each other.

MARTIN: That's Marguerite Mariscal, the CEO of Momofuku, the company founded by celebrity chef David Chang. Momofuku operates well-known restaurants like Noodle Bar in New York and Majordomo in Los Angeles. The group closed all 16 of their restaurants back in March. But Mariscal says they were determined to keep planning for the future.

MARISCAL: To make sure that when we reopened our doors we had an operating model to follow, given nothing is pretty much the same as it was in February 2020.

MARTIN: Usually, restaurants use health department guidelines to keep staff and customers healthy.

MARISCAL: You have a group of businesses that are just used to, you know, methodically going down a list - right? - and making sure that they're doing everything right.

MARTIN: But this time there is no detailed list of what to do, no letter grades about how well restaurants are social distancing or stopping the spread of coronavirus. And when Georgia allowed indoor dining to resume at the end of April, the state didn't give restaurants much information about how to do it safely.

MARISCAL: Seeing what guidance was provided there I think was a bit of a wakeup call.

MARTIN: For Mariscal, that wakeup call was a call to action.

MARISCAL: Everyone was kind of holding their breath for what was going to come next. And I think that was kind of the final straw that made us realize that if we wanted to have something for reopening, we had to take it onto ourselves.

MARTIN: So her team started working on a free guide for the industry. It came out this week on Momofuku's website with some suggestions.

MARISCAL: Having a dedicated safety manager, so someone whose sole job is to prioritize the safety and the following of these guidelines.

MARTIN: Things like changing gloves after handling money and how to take off those gloves safely.

MARISCAL: By no means is it everything, but it's at least a starting place that someone could take back from there (ph).

MARTIN: In the meantime, Mariscal has some ideas for customers who want to support their favorite restaurants.

MARISCAL: Call your restaurant to order food. Don't use apps. And don't be mad if it takes a little too long. They're trying to do it as safely as they can.

MARTIN: Marguerite Mariscal is CEO of Momofuku, the restaurant company founded by celebrity chef David Chang. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.