For the past eight months, restaurants have fought hard to keep their businesses open and operating safely during a relentless pandemic.

They have risen to the challenge by transitioning their business models, investing in protective equipment, rearranging tables for social distancing and implementing new sanitation protocols. Restaurants have shown ingenuity, persistence and creativity to adapt to an ever-changing landscape.

And throughout it all, most restaurants have taken the health and safety of customers and employees seriously, adhering to public health guidelines and government mandates.

With so many restaurants doing everything right, it’s disheartening that they are being unfairly targeted as possible spreaders of COVID-19. The fact is there is no data that points to individuals being more likely to contract the virus when going to a restaurant.

Because the survival of so many restaurants is at stake, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association is launching a statewide public awareness campaign to educate the public about what restaurants are doing to keep their customers and employees safe during the pandemic.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

The “Ready to Serve Safely” campaign showcases those restaurants who are committed to following the very best practices for COVID-19 mitigation.

To participate, Wisconsin Restaurant Association member restaurants must sign the “Ready to Serve Safely” commitment and follow four specific safety protocols and compliance criteria: Follow FDA, CDC and EPA COVID-19 guidelines; adhere to Wisconsin and local health department orders or mandates; provide employee training on food safety, sanitation and COVID-19 mitigation practices; and adhere to Wisconsin Restaurant Association pandemic guidance.

Diners who want to support restaurants that have taken the “Ready to Serve Safely” pledge can visit wirestaurant.org for a complete list.

The impact of COVID-19 has been devastating for individuals, families and small businesses. As we all struggle to overcome the challenges caused by the coronavirus, the heartbreaking reality is many of our restaurants won’t survive the pandemic without support from customers.

That’s why we are extremely grateful for the public’s concern for the plight of restaurants during this difficult time. Restaurants have been there for their communities, now we ask those communities to support their local restaurants in whatever way they feel comfortable, whether it’s dine in, carryout, curbside, delivery or drive-thru. Restaurants are not going to revive and survive the next six months without that critical support.

Kristine Hillmer is president and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.