MRA asks all Memphis restaurants to follow these rules

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 18, 2020 7:27 PM CT | Published: March 18, 2020 7:27 PM CT

Editor’s note: Due to the serious public health implications associated with COVID-19, The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed.

Ernie Mellor, president of the Memphis Restaurant Association, sent a press release Wednesday asking for help reaching restaurateurs who aren’t MRA members. He wanted to make sure they all know the rules Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland issued for restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This set of protocol was approved by Mayor Strickland and was updated this morning. This is intended for ALL Memphis Restaurants, not just the MRA Membership,” he wrote.

In a phone call, he explained.

“There are, plus or minus, about 2,000 Memphis restaurants,” he said. “We can’t get this out to every one of them, we have no way to do it.

“But we need everyone to follow these rules. We can’t enforce them, but if we don’t follow them, they’ll be enforced because everyone will get shut down. We’ve seen what is happening in other cities.”

Here’s the press release:

“Our lives are changing rapidly in uncharted territory with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. We have posted notices on good hygiene from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and local Health Department; hand washing frequently, stay home if you are sick and keeping your distance from others when possible. Below is protocol that the MRA feels is smart and safe and will keep our businesses moving. These are all common sense objectives and (we) would ask that ALL Restaurants in the Memphis area follow these guidelines ... 

“Following these measures will hopefully instill confidence in our clients and customers to continue patronizing our businesses. These guidelines are a self-policing measure and we emphasize that everyone should follow them. With these in place, we are doing our duty to curb the spread of the virus and continue providing great food and services to all Memphians. We hope and pray there is not a mandate to completely shut down our businesses for any length of time.

Self-Policing Protocol

“As of Sunday, March 15, the CDC recommends no gatherings of 50+ people.

“Seating/distancing: Restaurants and bars should encourage social distancing by either removing seating/tables so that more space between tables. OR

“Close every other table with proper signage; the goal is to keep occupancy at 50% or less. (Social distancing is defined at 6 feet apart.)

“Offering hand sanitizer to guests at entrance or each table or by the server.

“Encourage guests to return home at the end of the night. This can be done by cutting back on closing times to 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. for restaurants and 11 p.m. or midnight for bars.

“Sanitizing common and frequently touched surfaces, regularly, every 30 minutes or more where warranted.

“Removing/handling items below from tables and presenting them on request:

“Salt and pepper shakers; sweeteners, crackers and the like; condiments such as mustard, ketchup, hot sauce (wipe and sanitize these after each use); lemons and other garnishes for food or drinks should be moved to the plate or glass with tongs not the hand.

“Menus: Direct guests to your menu website from their personal mobile device. If they prefer a menu in hand give them printed/disposable copy of the menu. Throw the menus away after each use.

“If continuing to use laminated menus, sanitize after each use.

Employee guidelines

“All touching between persons is forbidden. No hugs, handshakes, shoulder taps, fist bumps or any other touching should be allowed.

“All employees (front of house and back of house) are to wash their hands for 20 seconds with soap after the following:

“Bussing tables (keep hands/fingers off of glass rims when bussing); accepting payment from a guest; all employees to wash hands at least once every 30 minutes.

Other Guidelines

“Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Cover your mouth with a tissue or napkin or sneeze into the crook of your arm.

“Stay home when you’re sick.

“See your doctor if you think you’re ill.


“Encourage your customers to call/on-line ordering directly from you vs. third parties (UberEats, etc.) for delivery services.

“Ramp up your takeout business.

“If you do not already have customer takeout parking you might make that a priority. NOTE: The City of Memphis is willing to work with us, for those that don’t have parking lots, to designate ‘pull up’ spaces for pickup orders. Go to to inquire more or to make that happen for you.

“Also, consider a grab-and-go refrigerator by your cash register with pre-prepared meals for your customers to warm up when they get home.

“Hotels: Remind your guests about room service and takeout availability from your restaurants.

“Please follow these guidelines to help keep our businesses open and running!”


Memphis Restaurant Association Ernie Mellor
Jennifer Biggs

Jennifer Biggs

Jennifer Biggs is a native Memphian and veteran food writer and journalist who covers all things food, dining and spirits related for The Daily Memphian.


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