It has been an adventure, attempting to make our favourite restaurants’ food in our own kitchens. You finally have the perfect season for those Mango Cheesecakes, and time for the Malai chops.
DIY kits from O’play, and YouTube cooking lessons had never been more of a blessing. Let’s say we’ve all had our moments of cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Eventually, these surges of passion die down with scares, meltdowns, and just anxiety over everything happening. Honestly, for some of us, while the taste was never really quite as hot as Madchef’s Naga special or as cheesy as Bella Italia’s lasagna, it stopped feeling worth the effort. You just want to click on that app and have your heavenly favourites delivered to your doorstep. But you don’t, right? Because you are scared -- we all are. We do not know whether this quick fix of craving will cause an invisible virus attack.
When you look up whether getting food at your doorstep is safe, there aren’t many clear answers, because other countries have it figured out and the delivery industry is booming! We need to understand that it is still a novel virus, and there are numerous researches still being conducted. So far what we've gathered from USDA, CDC, and FDA is that Covid-19 is a respiratory illness; there is no indication that it can be transmitted by any food. Reputable chains and good restaurant kitchens are more likely to be geared towards skilled, hygienic food preparation, ensuring a freshly cooked takeaway meal poses minimal risk. Studies say, it is safe to eat from your favourite restaurants! Still not convinced? Let’s try to debunk those concerns.
Concern 1: Who is touching my food?
Nadvie Ahmed, managing partner at Lean Nation BD, Polau Ghor, La Jawaab, and Painted Chopsticks, says it’s very low risk to order in. “When we make your food, we are collecting all the raw materials, disinfecting them, and putting them together into a finished safe product which saves you from having to come in contact with anyone -- no grocery, no travel -- other than the delivery man, sometimes not even that. Considering that studies say the virus is not transmitted through cooked food, your ordered burger comes into contact with the restaurant, and the packaging with the delivery man. As an added measure, our kitchen staff who handle food have drastically reduced contact with any outsiders, even while not at work.”
Concern 2: How do I know my food is not coming into contact with an infected person?
Even if the food itself can’t transmit the virus, we still have reservations about having what we eat handled by someone who may be infected. Everyone’s favourite café has the right answers. “We are primarily keeping our staff at the stores, under very comfortable and safe circumstances,” says Rehanur Rahman, Managing Partner, Crimson Cup Coffees. “The coffee that is being made is completely contactless, and other restaurants and cafés are taking similar measures. It is mandatory that our staff wear gloves and masks at all times. Temperature and symptom check-ups are done every morning, and any complaint of even a headache is taken very seriously.”
What about the delivery package itself? How do I know it is not infected? How are they making sure my package isn’t encountering the virus?
When leading delivery services of the country were asked about food and staff safety, Ambareen Reza, CEO, foodpanda Bangladesh, conveyed: “We are in constant communication with our restaurant partners following the latest World Health Organization (WHO) notices, while advising them on the health and safety practices beyond our food hygiene expectations. This ensures maximum safety for both the food and packaging. As for riders, they are always equipped with all sorts of protective measures. Besides the instructed use of masks, gloves, and sanitizers at all times, daily temperature check is a must before each rider sets out for their scheduled deliveries. To maintain hygiene of the delivery bags, riders are mandated to sanitize the delivery bags after pickup and before every delivery to ensure maximum hygiene. In light of the Covid-19 outbreak, to promote healthy social distancing, apart from encouraging customers to switch to online payment, we are strictly maintaining a contactless delivery service; customers can request their order to be dropped off at any designated spot, minimizing direct contact.”
“We have full-time riders and not random people dropping off food, so we know their whereabouts at all times. When they report to the hub before starting work, a thorough health-check is done following strict international guidelines before and during delivery. We even offer to leave food at the door; contactless.” – Ibrahim Bin Mohiuddin, Co-founder & Deputy CEO, HungryNaki.
Concern 3: Where is my food being made, and under what circumstances?
It is especially important to feel comfortable when ordering food during the pandemic, and getting transparent answers from your food provider. Laughing Buddha had become the new have-you-been-there-yet before all hell broke loose on us. Since the beginning of our little “stay home” situation, this restaurant, like many other reputable ones, has taken safety and hygiene seriously. “We, at Laughing Buddha, have adopted every measure possible to keep our staff healthy and safe since day one of the threat at hand.
• We maintain sectional quarantine in the restaurant itself; there is no physical contact within the team members.
• The kitchen is wiped down with our mix of disinfectant, faint amount of bleach, and water periodically. It is also sprayed on the staff after change of clothes.
• The staff are living in housing provided by us, under strict measures and a safe environment.
The safety of our staff is our prime concern, and we have taken every measure to ensure it, along with which the food promises preparation in the safest environment according to us.” – Farazi Ghani, Managing Partner, Laughing Buddha.
Concern 4: How safe are the packaging materials? How is the restaurant handling them?
Although studies suggest low chances of the coronavirus being transmitted by packaging, uncertainties about food safety make the eating experience unpleasant. Sami Ameen, owner at Uncle Sam's, Uncle Chaap and Afters, and Managing Partner at Fryyay, also talked about packages: “We often get asked whether the foilboxes or containers are safe. We follow all safety procedures suggested by the FDA. We wash all the containers with food-grade detergents and dry them up. We try to stay stocked up so that interaction with suppliers is limited, and the boxes are stored four to five days before they go out to the customer. Another legitimate concern is what if the bag that it is being carried in gets contaminated during delivery. Which is why, we use 2 layers of baggies and advise customers to throw away all packages and transfer food to their own containers as soon as they receive it. You want to be as careful as possible, and ensure utmost safety of the people who instill hope in us.”
I recently gave into my craving for thick fries and ended up ordering one of my favourites: Frybox. When I brought the packet in, it had a visual sticker of how my food was prepared safely, and how packaging was handled; it had a positive psychological impact on me. When asked about their mantra, Kishwar Hashemee, CEO and co-founder at Kludio (Frybox, Dough on the Go and Hero Burger) said: “Our great hold on hygiene is due to being in control of the production, logistics, and technology. Food is also cooked at high temperatures, with Covid-19 specific sanitization in place. We make sure our customers know about our measures. Do your due diligence to the place you are eating from. I think the future is live streaming of kitchens, so you see how your food is being made and who is making them."
Concern 5: Are other people ordering too?
“While we have seen some people being scared to order, contrary to popular belief, we’ve been experiencing a rise in orders during the pandemic. Many people are relying on food delivery more than ever -- because firstly, food is not a vector. Delivery people have been some of the unsung heroes of the pandemic, and thanks to cashless payments and contactless deliveries, they have been plying the roads while staying safe with the necessary precautions. As a small business, Cookups has a responsibility towards our diners to maintain hygiene, but also to keep our team safe while we go about our daily work.” – Namira Hossain, founder and CEO of Cookups. We also reached out to someone who recently got over his fears and made his first order for delivery. “There are only a few restaurants that I can trust, when it comes to safe food delivery. Izakaya is one of them. They’ve made sure to communicate with me (when asked) about how their food is prepared. To top that off, their delivery man was fully equipped with PPE and proper facemask.” - Zulyad Islam, Musician.
Steps we can take:
• Check restaurants’ safety measures. (ask for photos if you are feeling CID)
• Make a cashless transaction (because who wants to boil dirty cash?)
• When accepting delivery, wear a mask (be a good person, tip the Superhero)
• Transfer food to containers at home (don’t have to plate like a MasterChef)
• Dispose all packages and containers (keep mom away if it’s a nice plastic box)
• Wash your hands for 20 seconds (don't forget to sing Happy Birthday twice!)
• Heat your food up (not a necessity, it’s for the heat-kills-germs believer in you)
• CAVE AND DEVOUR (thank me while you eat)
Our fear of this “cosmic horror” is hurting a lot of local businesses we love, even though they are taking strict and rapid steps to make sure all our dilemmas are put to rest. It’s time we educate ourselves and support these local brands that have tirelessly worked to make a place in our hearts. Helping to promote these standards through buying habits will help set examples for other restaurants and cafés to follow by making it the new normal. It is our responsibility, as consumers, to support an industry that has proven to be the only vessel of happiness in every misery that has hit us over the years. Ask questions, make sure all your doubts are calmed, and CAVE. It has been a crazy ride, this dumb year, and you deserve it.
Kashfia Kayes is a blatant Dhanmondi girl with a whole lot to say. She’s every cliché yet nothing like you’ve ever seen before.