Can UV Light Make Restaurants Safer During COVID?

This type of UV light may help sanitize your restaurant's air and surfaces.
January 25, 2021, 11:58 PM UTC
Can UV Light Make Restaurants Safer During COVID?

Hospitality won’t ever be the same after the pandemic. Even after we get through the closures and losses, we’re likely to find that some of the safety measures we’ve invested in become industry fixtures going forward.

Ultraviolet light—which scorches viruses just as surely as it sunburns swimmers—is one sanitation measure that should have staying power. Restaurant owners should be thinking of UV as more than tanning lamps, and instead note the ways that hospitals already use UV to protect immunocompromised people. Here’s a quick primer of what you need to know when you’re considering this new safety tech in your business. 

What is UV light?

Ultraviolet (UV) is a type of electromagnetic radiation. You know it as the potentially harmful component of sunlight that can tan or burn you, but we also produce it artificially in black lights, tanning beds, or the mercury vapor lamps that often power streetlights because of their long-lasting brightness.

UV radiation has a wavelength too short to make it visible to the human eye unless it’s used to illuminate or cause other chemical reactions. Its intensity makes its rays potentially useful beyond heating and lighting, so long as you avoid overexposure. Take care to understand the risks before using any UV product.

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What's the difference between UV vs. UVC?

Technically they're the same thing. Ultraviolet radiation comes in three varieties: UVA, UVB, and UVC. You absorb some UVA and UVB whenever you’re in direct sunlight.

UVC, the highest-energy of the three, is the oddball. Natural UVC (in sunlight) is less of a concern to humans because the atmosphere absorbs it before it reaches us. Artificial UVC, however, is powerful and can zap germs, which is why many restaurants are installing these lights during the pandemic. Most UV products purchased for safety are of the UVC variety.

UV light may help restaurants fight COVID

 Because UVC light has proven effective for inactivating viruses and reducing the spread of bacteria, it’s considered a way to fight COVID-19 by restaurateurs, government agencies, and the general public. Studies confirm that UVC light can curb the spread of bacteria on surfaces in hospitals and subway systems. Many believe that UVC products may be able to sanitize surfaces in restaurants.

Restaurants are also using UVC to attack mold and mildew in walk-in freezers, disinfect POS devices and restrooms, and generally reduce the need for expensive chemical cleaning products.

Restaurants also are using UVC rays in ceiling lights, HVAC ducts, and air purifiers in dining rooms. Heavy-duty overhead UVC lights may be used overnight to purify air and surfaces, while air is filtered through UVC light in HVAC systems which run constantly to help destroy dangerous airborne particles.

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Diners are accustomed to seeing air purifiers. But perhaps the visible sign of this sanitizing feature reinforces employee and guest trust in a business’ commitment to safety. In fact, nearly 70% of consumers think it’s important for restaurants to communicate their safety strategy. So let guests and employees know what measures you’re taking.

Please note that, to date, no definitive proof or studies confirm UVC light will disarm SARS-CoV-2, the specific coronavirus that causes COVID-19. But UVC has proven to reduce the spread of bacteria and may in fact inactivate the virus we’re all trying to avoid, which is why many are using the tech in their spaces.

The best UV light products for your restaurant

Your space, your budget, and your particular needs are going to vary, of course, but a growing roster of UV products are almost certainly going to have something for you.

A suite of UV disinfection gear is available from Philips USA, primarily for disinfecting surfaces, air, and water.

A soon-to-be-released UVC autonomous robot from LG is like a 5-foot-tall robot vacuum that can sanitize an area in 15-30 minutes using the latest UVC technology and motion-sensing functionality. Designed specifically for use in industries such as hospitality, it is the first in a line of UVC products LG is releasing in 2021.

Radiant UVC offers several options of commercial-grade portable UVC lamps, UVC light fixtures, and UVC disinfection machines.

There are some highly rated, less expensive handheld and tabletop options if you’re looking for a low-cost way to incorporate UV light into your sanitization plan. You can always start small. But there's an excellent chance that UV is here to stay.

[Photo by Dmitry Zvolskiy from Pexels]