How This Tech Startup Hopes to Make Restaurants Safe

Peace of mind while dining

Key Takeaways

  • The DineSafe platform allows restaurants to keep up with COVID safety protocols, while giving transparency to potential customers.
  • The company's CEO said the platform is free for restaurants to sign up and use.
  • DineSafe hopes to ease people back into dining out by giving them peace of mind.
Waiter Wearing PPE During Covid-19 Pandemic Serving Food to Diners Wearing Masks
halbergman / Getty Images

Those who want to start dining out again, but still have concerns about safety, can turn to a new tech platform that shows restaurants’ COVID-19 protocols all in one place. 

DineSafe shows customers real-time and updated information on a restaurant’s safety and cleanliness, so people can feel safer and more secure if they decide to eat out. Restaurants have dealt with some of the strictest regulations since the pandemic began, but DineSafe wants to shed light on everything the industry is doing to keep both workers and customers as safe as possible. 

"We see that there’s a way to start going back to restaurants now, and we’ve found customers appreciate restaurants hearing their concerns and what they’re worried about," DineSafe CEO Ryan O’Donnell told Lifewire in a phone interview. "Our team has known all along that restaurants have taken this seriously, and DineSafe is like the light at the end of the tunnel."

The Platform 

O’Donnell said DineSafe originally started as a way to digitize the constant changing of regulations when the pandemic first began.

"We saw what these restaurants were doing on a daily basis to keep the guests safe—the steps they are taking, the money they are putting into [it]," he said. "We thought, 'how do we take all these things that we know that they're doing and give them a competitive edge?'"

"Our team has known all along that restaurants have taken this seriously, and DineSafe is like the light at the end of the tunnel."

DineSafe then shifted to create a compliance checklist restaurants must complete to become DineSafe certified. The checklist takes government regulations and mandates on COVID-19, and combines them with industry best practices from the National Restaurant Association.

Restaurants must complete 27 compliance questions every week, whether providing photo or video proof or simple yes and no answers. The photos and videos are then uploaded to a restaurant's DineSafe profile page, so customers can see exactly what kind of precautions the restaurant is taking, whether it's plexiglass, high-tech ventilation systems, disposable menus, or properly spaced-out tables.

"It's one thing to tell the guests what a restaurant is doing [for safety], but it's better to show them," O’Donnell said. 

A restaurant's profile on DineSafe showing it's COVID safety implementations

The most important aspect is DineSafe doesn’t charge restaurants to sign up for the platform, since the focus is on helping keep local businesses open. 

Right now, O'Donnell said there are 75 DineSafe-certified restaurants. While the platform currently is only available in Connecticut, he said the company plans on expanding to other states and cities to help the industry across the country.

Dining Out Safely 

According to Statista, the restaurant industry lost 2.1 million jobs by the end of November 2020, and an estimated 110,000 restaurants closed permanently or long-term due to COVID-19 last year.

Takeout and delivery are still crucial to supporting local restaurants, but O’Donnell said that for those debating whether it is safe to eat inside or not, DineSafe could provide assurance for customers while also keeping these restaurants afloat. 

"I do think there are a lot of people who are on the fence who love restaurants and who miss restaurants, and DineSafe information can help them make an informed decision," he said.

Patisserie, Red Rooster, and Pikkio restaurants, with Red Rooster labeled as "DineSafe Certified"
DineSafe

Restaurants that have used DineSafe say the platform has been an integral part of organizing the overwhelming amount of information and safety precautions necessary to stay safely open. 

"DineSafe puts a magnifying glass on what operators do on a daily basis, and the to-do list is a hefty one. Guests are able to see through a DineSafe profile what it takes to keep them, and our employees, safe every single day," wrote Lindsay Finnemore, director of training and development at the Connecticut-based Hartford Restaurant Group, to Lifewire in an email. 

"I genuinely believe DineSafe will help redeem our industry, making it possible to continue to do what we love to do and to continue to employ so many fantastic, hard-working people," she said. 

"It's one thing to tell the guests what a restaurant is doing [for safety], but it's better to show them."

Once the pandemic is finally over and behind us, O’Donnell said safety will still very much be at the front of our minds, and that DineSafe will shift again to keep customers updated about general restaurant safety.

"Whereas previously, safety issues were really [in] the back of the house, like health inspections, post-COVID, we really believe in the idea that guests are going to have a different relationship with safety going forward," he said.

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