Is Indoor Air Quality in Restaurants a Critical Concern? 

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way things used to work. Once, indoor air quality was of zero concern for the restaurants. But now, even after 2-3 years of the pandemic, it is a critical concern requiring definitive solutions. 

The restaurant business was among the most affected businesses when COVID-19 hit the world. With over 3 million employees being laid off, 110,000 restaurants being closed for long term or permanently, and a loss of $240 billion in 2020. 

To resume routine operations, restaurant businesses coined strategies to stop virus transmission and make restaurants a safer place. It included wearing masks, scanning temperature, checking vaccination cards, and maintaining social distancing. 

But was this enough? 

With rising awareness about indoor air quality and its impact on health, indoor air quality has become a critical concern among employees and customers. The Restaurant and Catering Industry Association (R&CA) provides resources, issues guides and posters to operate safely while maintaining a healthy and comfortable indoor environment. 

Indoor Air Quality In Restaurants

Tasty cuisine is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a restaurant. It grew into an enjoyable ambience.  But the concept has changed with time. Now it also stands for a pleasurable experience and comfort with hygiene and safety. 

Many sources pollute the restaurant’s indoor environment, affecting hygiene and safety and destroying experience and comfort. 

Besides the outdoor pollution that gets into the restaurant and employees and customers carry with them, multiple airborne indoor air pollutants arise from activities. The pollutants include cooking emissions, fuel combustion, aerosols, cleaning materials, and energy consumption. Wide-scale pollutants make it necessary for restaurant owners and managers to focus on indoor air quality and take adequate measures to maintain it. 

When employees and customers know that a restaurant maintains the quality of its services and is safer, they keep coming back to the place for an everlasting experience. 

Importance Of Indoor Air Quality In Restaurant

Indoor air quality is very important for restaurants. It impacts everything in a restaurant including revenue and the place’s name! 

1. Employee Productivity

Indoor air quality can impact employee productivity and performance and affect retention. It is known to affect mental health and cognitive functions and cause headaches and fatigue. Employees can also suffer from short and long-term health issues. 

Short-term health issues include cough, eye irritation and nasal irritation, often collectively known as Sick Building Syndrome. The long-term health issues include respiratory issues, cardiovascular problems, and increased chances of cancer. 

2. Customer Satisfaction And Comfort

Indoor air quality is directly linked with increasing customer satisfaction and comfort and adds value to the overall dining experience. Bad air with dust or allergens can aggravate allergies or exacerbate existing health problems. Unpleasant, unwanted odours, and too hot or cold temperatures lead to discomfort and dissatisfaction. All of it can make customers complain about the services and give a negative review about a restaurant. 

3. Food Quality And Storage 

Poor indoor air quality affects the quality of prepared and stored food. A restaurant must serve high-quality food to its customers. It must ensure ingredients are fresh, without any signs of spoilage. The food storage must comply with the standardised procedures, maintaining temperature and humidity so there is no bacterial, mould or mildew contamination.

4. Affect On Sense Of Taste And Smell 

A restaurant’s air is mostly filled with strong smells. These smells come from cooking, fuel combustion and cleaning products. Constant exposure to harsh odours affects the sense of smell and causes a risk of developing a condition known as anosmia. The affected sense of smell also impacts the sense of taste, and a person may no longer be able to sense any smell or food’s taste. 

5. Health Impacts 

Poor indoor air quality in a restaurant causes health problems for employees and customers. They may experience short-term health problems like headache, dizziness, suffocation, coughing, wheezing, etc. or may develop respiratory or cardiac problems. Indoor air quality also exposes employees and customers to the risk of developing cancer. 

Assessing Air Quality In Restaurants

To maintain the restaurant’s air quality, it is necessary to assess it. You can assess air quality in restaurants by various methods. We require a comprehensive approach and utilise all these methods to maintain air quality. 

1. Use Indoor Air Quality Monitoring Devices 

Air quality monitoring devices continuously assess indoor air quality and check for harmful gasses and other parameters in real-time. They provide insight into air quality trends and enable restaurant management to act promptly.   

2. Measure Key Parameters

Temperature and humidity are key parameters to measure indoor air quality. Maintaining humidity between 40%-60% is recommended to maximise comfort while prohibiting bacterial and fungal growth in buildings and food. Temperature settings depend on weather conditions, but restaurants must follow the recommended settings. 

3. Take Help From Local indoor Air Quality Expert

Local indoor air quality experts have professional experience in monitoring air quality trends, assessing them, and providing valuable personalised suggestions to maintain and improve air quality. IAQ experts also help plan the future aspects of a restaurant business. 

The Most Air-Polluted Areas In Restaurant

Not every area in a restaurant is as polluted as other ones. You must consider the area, type of pollutant and its source before taking adequate steps to overcome indoor air quality concerns in restaurants.

1. Kitchen 

Most pollutants in a restaurant come from the kitchen. Emissions from grill, oven or fuel combustion include harmful substances like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and formaldehyde, which make the kitchen the most polluted area in a restaurant. 

2. HVAC System 

A poorly maintained heating, ventilation and air conditioning system pollutes the indoor air of the restaurant. HVAC systems with dirty or contaminated ducts serve as a reservoir for bacteria, viruses, and moulds. Moreover, the HVAC system also restricts airflow in the restaurant. 

3. Refrigeration And Cooling Units 

Restaurants have large refrigeration and cooling units to store food. Such areas have excess moisture, promoting mould and mild growth and affecting indoor air quality. 

4. Dining Area 

The dining area has multiple sources of pollutants. It has emissions from furniture polishes, and cleaning products which harm health when inhaled. Moreover, the dining area has imbalanced temperature and moisture levels, and a higher level of carbon dioxide, and other harmful gasses make the dining area susceptible to poor indoor air quality. 

Steps For Improving Air Quality In Restaurants

Here are some steps for improving air quality in restaurants. 

1. Install Indoor Air Monitoring System 

An air monitoring system detects the level of pollutants in the indoor air. Installing the air monitoring system keeps managers updated about indoor air quality in real-time and allows them to take appropriate steps to improve it. 

2. Maintain Proper Cleaning Of Indoor Spaces 

Proper dusting, vacuuming, cleaning of indoor spaces, and sanitising products with eco-friendly products keep indoor spaces dust-free, keeping the indoor air free of dust and particulate matter. 

3. Improve Ventilation

Improving ventilation in the restaurant’s indoor spaces improves the air quality in restaurants. While designing the restaurant, owners must optimise commercial kitchen ventilation design to maximise ventilation.  Restaurants must utilise natural ventilation and use proper ventilation systems to ensure adequate ventilation. They must also use exhaust fans and maintain the hood systems to improve ventilation. 

4. Maintain HVAC System Properly 

HVAC systems play a crucial role in cleaning indoor air. A properly maintained HVAC system ensures air is filtered and no dust, debris, allergens or pollutants are in the indoor spaces. 

5. Maintain Humidity and Temperature Controls

Controlling humidity and temperature is important in improving a restaurant’s indoor air quality by stopping bacterial and fungal growth and adding comfort for customers and employees. 

6. Use Air Purification Systems 

Air purifiers clean indoor air of odours, bacteria, dust, aerosols, allergens and viruses that impact air quality. Using air purification systems also brings health benefits by preventing disease. 

Euromate Pure Air has the most advanced air purification systems that purify the air from dust, allergens, odours and gasses from indoor spaces. Commercial air purification systems remove the pollutants and significantly improve the indoor air quality. 

Indoor air quality in restaurants is a critical concern as it impacts the health and comfort of employees and customers. Restaurant owners must identify the pollutants and their source and assess indoor air quality. Restaurants must install indoor air monitoring systems, maintain indoor cleaning, improve ventilation, maintain HVAC systems temperature and humidity, and use air purification systems as essential steps to improve air quality.