Some Twin City restaurants have not waited until the recommended end of June to reopen indoor dining.
Pizza Ranch on Bloomington's east side is one establishment that has ignored the state's Restore Illinois reopening plan date to reduce the chance of a coronavirus infection surge.
Many of the guidelines for outdoor dining transfer to an indoor environment, but a buffet with shared serving utensils and drink stands complicates worker and patron safety.
Owners of Pizza Ranch, which offers a full buffet, had not responded to a request for comment at the time this story was published. More than 20 vehicles were at the restaurant as of 6 p.m. Thursday.
Lori Grooms is the OSF HealthCare's director of infection prevention and control.
"Really, we wouldn't necessarily want to recommend buffets. But if there was a place that needed to have a buffet, there are certain things they can do," said Grooms, adding people should try to protect others as well as themselves.
"I clean my hands before I go to the buffet. I dispense my food onto my plate. And then when I come back to my seat, I make sure to use hand sanitizer again," said Grooms.
She said cleaning serving spoons at the buffet after every person goes through a distanced line is probably not feasible, but she recommended frequent cleaning of any non-disposable utensils.
Grooms said restaurants also can do the same things they do for outdoor service, including spacing out tables, using disposable flatware, checking employee temperatures, mandating masks and gloves, and creating separate exit and entrance doors. She also said condiments and even salt and pepper should be in individualized packages.
There are other challenges, too.
"How do we stage our common areas, things like bathrooms, walkways, and waiting areas and make sure there is distancing there as well. How do they ensure staff who are working together are not congregating in a smaller area when they are not serving the food?" asked Grooms.
Some outdoor restaurants in the Twin Cities have placed limits on time spent at a table. Grooms suggested that is a good idea for indoor operations as well.
"We also don't want people lingering around for a long time because the longer I am in a restaurant, the higher the risk becomes because I am exposed to more people. As people come and go, I am being introduced to more people coming into the area," said Grooms.
She said there is no possibility people can eliminate the risk of contracting the coronavirus infection, but they can steps take to minimize it.