FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - In an attempt to boost consumer confidence, the Texas Restaurant Association unveiled a new certification program Wednesday that provides establishments with COVID-19 health and safety training.
The TRA and Dallas College created a five-course online program that targets supervisors, takeout and delivery staff, kitchen workers, servers and cleaning crews.
"The only way to save the industry is to get consumers back to restaurants," said Dr. Emily Knight, the CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association.
A restaurant can earn certification if five employees pass the Texas Restaurant Promise Certification Program, which will cover safety measures, as well as the requirements under Gov. Greg Abbott's state health standards.
Then, the establishment must undergo a series of "secret-shopper" inspections conducted by the hospitality firm, A Closer Look.
"We believe strongly that when the customer feels like the restaurant is putting health and safety first, that's the place where they'll go back again," said Chris Gillen, the CEO of A Closer Look.
Certified restaurants will display a decal in their front window after completing the program.
Nikky Phinyawatana, the owner of Asian Mint, said wants her staff to follow a streamlined set of COVID-19 rules.
"I think it's going to be life-changing for me as a business owner to have that support," she said.
Norma's Cafe also plans to apply for the program.
While employees are already implementing health measures that include sanitization, wearing masks and separating tables, the establishment's operations director said the extra inspections could put consumers at ease.
"Anytime you can get somebody else to look at your business and procedures, that's a great thing," said Bill Biegler. "We're open to any constructive criticism that can help us be safer."
The Texas Restaurant Promise Certification Program is funded through a $500,000 grant from the Texas Workforce Commission.
While the training will typically cost $1,000 for each site, nearly 500 restaurants will be able to enroll in the program for free because of the state grant.
In all, the initial program will be able to serve 2,500 students.
The TRA and Dallas College intend to continue the certification program in the future.
Restaurants can apply for the program here.
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