Great East

The first Zero Covid experimental restaurant is in Alsace

The Maison des Têtes in Colmar is the first innovative restaurant that concentrates unique technological solutions in the world around 5 areas of prevention.

Given the current health context and the risk observed around the common meal, highlighted by numerous epidemiological studies, players in the field are mobilizing to provide the best solutions before the reopening that everyone wants to happen soon. The starred restaurant “La Maison des Têtes” in Colmar, run by chef Eric and his wife Marilyn Girardin, has become a small “innovation laboratory”. Alsace in general and Colmar in particular are the places where the first cases would have been identified as early as November 2019!

The epidemiological data are clear

“The Comcor Study: where do the French get infected? confirmed the hypotheses of our 3 scientists who published a well-documented article a month earlier in Infodujour “les repas coupables? ».

Professor Fontanet of the Scientific Council and the Pasteur Institute concluded that “meals play a central role in contaminations, whether in a family, friendly or less professional environment”.

The risk of eating out

An international study published in September on hospital caregivers in 67 countries and 41 U.S. states showed that exposure to patients with IDVOC-19 was associated with a moderate adjusted over-risk of 140%. This over-risk is 1620% for eating out in restaurants outside of work!

Numerous examples of contaminations in the context of shared meals in 2020

A well-documented cluster occurred in February 2020 during a dinner in the municipality of Capannori in a 70 square meter room (Lucca), Italy. Three guests coming from the Milanese region in the 14 days prior to the dinner were symptomatic at this meal (coughing). Out of 49 participants, 26 people developed one or more symptoms. Three subjects were hospitalized and treated and one died. The guests were placed around 5 tables and mingled by changing places during the evening.

Many clusters with shared meals were described in the press. For example, in August 2020, 51 out of 72 gendarmes of the Mobile Gendarmerie squadron of Tarbes tested positive several days after their departure from French Polynesia. On July 31, an evening at the “red pepper” restaurant is organized and on Monday, August 3 and a farewell drink could be at the origin of the contagion to COVID-19 according to observers.

Numerous weddings, birthdays and other family events where people eat and drink together have led to clusters between July and October in France and abroad. That of a wedding on Lake Annecy showed that out of 93 people on board a boat (88 guests, 2 catering staff and 3 crew members), 21 were contaminated. One employee of the wedding caterer was identified as positive. But by the time he found out, he had already worked for another event in the Ain, where 40 people were present. Two guests tested positive on the second event. The caterer’s employee was probably responsible for the contamination of the cascading guests.

Technical solutions unique in the world in Alsace!

Why Alsace? Because more than 21 million tourists visited it from 2017 to 2018, that constitutes more than 39,000 jobs, a major tourist axis. Colmar is also the most popular destination for European tourists in 2020. European Best Destinations

A working group was set up at the end of September 2020 on the potential risks and possible good practices to be implemented in the restaurant business. This group, led by project manager Victor Vincentz, a member of the IUVA (International Ultraviolet Association) network followed by AFNOR and the Grand Est region, has gathered the best technical solutions around it. The working group will very quickly get closer to a major name in Alsatian catering, which has a 5-star Relais Châteaux hotel, a brasserie and a Michelin-starred restaurant, and this choice is no coincidence. This hotel and restaurant complex is located in the heart of Alsace, a tourist area that is very popular with Chinese tourists and which was hit hard by Covid in March 2020 and possibly as early as November 2019.

This place of history and gastronomy is “La Maison des Têtes“. It is run by the master restaurateur and starred Eric Girardin and Marilyn Girardin his wife.

The entire working group wanted to highlight possible solutions within the framework of a future recovery plan for professionals in the restaurant and food industry.

“These solutions are supported by the results of an experiment launched with COMETE (Covid Marseille Environmental Testing Expertise) and the BMPM in Marseilles in a configuration of 4 ill soldiers (CT<27) at tables who spoke for 30 minutes without masks,” explains Dr. Wendling, Occupational Health Prevention Physician and member of the Scientific and Citizen Committee of the City of Strasbourg. Dr. Wendling volunteered to accompany the working group and the project. “The experimental report, which has not yet been published, is rather reassuring and allows us to make recommendations that are consistent with the recommendations of the Ministry of Labor in the restaurant and catering sector. The taking of meals in essential companies such as supermarkets has never stopped and if our recommendations are followed and things are well done, my experience shows that we have no contamination to deplore”.

Five axes of proposals and actions

1-Hand and surface hygiene: from the customer entrance to the table, the kitchen and the sanitary facilities, hygiene is thought globally.

GHA distribution terminal
GHA distribution terminal

Thus, from the entrance of the restaurant, the contactless GHA dispenser is clearly visible with its signage inviting its use upon arrival. On each table, a small individual bottle of GHA is made available to the customer.

Hand hygiene is also a priority for the Network of Hand Hygiene Observers (#ROHM) supported by CPIAS and REPIAS and hospital hygiene experts. A point of enormous progress for the French according to Pr Didier Pittet, even more important than the mask according to him. This citizen network led by Dr. Wendling and sponsored by Dr. Pierre Parneix is mobilizing, with the wish for a strong action at the national level, particularly in the public space and around the meal.
“In our restaurant, the kitchen equipment is state-of-the-art with a dedicated workstation for each cook, sanitary facilities for the customers, all equipped with automatic non-contact detection faucets (GROHE brand),” says Eric Girardin. “The towels are single-use. There is a non-contact soap dispenser. The garbage cans have a foot control”.

Kitchen with 4 independent workstations

“All this equipment is important,” explains Dr. Wendling, “because transmission through soiled hands could be a neglected route according to some scientists. A very recent study published in Nature evokes this hypothesis. Hand hygiene, which according to the #ROHM survey can be improved in France, is therefore an essential point in the public space, around food in the food trade and especially around meals at home and in restaurants”.

single-use, single-seed, and hydro-alcoholic jelly card
single-use, single-seed, and hydro-alcoholic jelly card

In the Michelin-starred gastronomic section, Eric Girardin also offers a unique seeding menu that is carried by each customer. This can be planted in his garden or in a pot: it will give aromatic herbs! A nice gift full of conviviality.


2- A self-decontaminating coating : Coversafe


Door handles touched by all customers are treated with a self-decontaminating coating, an antimicrobial protection solution that is a self-adhesive film with specific characteristics. They are installed in the washrooms, in the common area of the restaurant and hotel to reduce the contamination factor. CoversafeTM is manufactured and marketed by Gergonne Industrie and uses Pylote’s natural antimicrobial technology. It claims the destruction of bacteria, the SARS-CoV-2 strain (the virus responsible for COVID-19) and viruses such as gastroenteritis and H1N1 influenza. CoversafeTM is a solution that acts continuously and permanently, thus significantly reducing the risk of microbial transmission.

According to Pr Christine Roques, President of the Afnor S95S commission (in charge of the NF S 90-700 standard), and University Professor – Hospital Practitioner in Toulouse: “these surfaces represent a complementary tool to disinfectants, each with properties linked to specific conditions of use. In the case of surfaces claiming biocidal activity, the principle corresponds to a lasting maintenance of activity over time. This gradual and continuous reduction of the bioload on surfaces would thus contribute to the reduction/breakdown of the transmission chain”.

3- Anti-splash design table dividers : Nora distribution

Table with Nora distribution divider, GHA kit and QR card code in 3 languages
Table with Nora distribution divider, GHA kit and QR card code in 3 languages

While the aerosol emission from the speech of an asymptomatic person probably contains very few viral particles, that of a spit may contain several tens or even hundreds of thousands of virions. Its behaviour is ballistic over a few tens of centimetres and the proposed separating barrier protects the plate, glass and cutlery of the opposite guests. The decree of January 28, 2021 for the collective catering provides moreover that the same table can only gather people coming and having booked together, within a limit henceforth fixed at 4 people instead of 6. A minimum distance of 2 m must be guaranteed between each seated person, except if a fixed or removable wall ensures a physical separation.

Physical separation also reduces the risk of objects or food passing from one space to another (such as bread, which is served as a single portion in this case). The structure was produced by Nora distribution headed by Audrey Altmeyer-Stoll, who was involved early on in the production of visors and Plexiglas wall solutions against COVID-19: “this wall is very quickly assembled by interlocking and is put in place at the customer’s request whenever people from different social bubbles meet. Its appearance is attractive, discreet, user-friendly, and also allows the QR code of the menus to be placed on the front. It could evolve in size and shape on demand”.


4- Implementation of UV LED Trilogy solution at different stages by Concept Light

UVLed disinfection tunnel for disinfecting upright plates
UVLed disinfection tunnel for disinfecting upright plates

Of course, the wearing of a mask or even a face shield as a complement by all personnel is required. As we have seen, staff can be a source of theoretical contamination. The risk is further reduced by innovative complementary disinfection technology. Between the reception of cold food such as Gravlax salmon, beef or salmon tartar, fruits and vegetables (salads, carrots, tomatoes, apples) and their service at the table, UVLed disinfection is systematic. This process is already known in the food industry for many years for the treatment of fruits, vegetables, fresh products; here we are in UV LED technology with various wavelengths and above all without mercury. Thus the incoming parcels can be processed before being stored.

Above all, the restaurant has a tunnel that is unique in the world, allowing almost instant processing of each plate that is set up before being served at the table. SterilUV Compact has an instantaneous ignition by detection: it claims to be effective in less than 5 seconds on bacteria and viruses, including Sars-Cov 2 with validation by the CNRS and Barrand laboratories on bacteria (staphylococcus aureus). Concept Light led by Victor Vincentz implemented the UV LED solution on this project at the request of the restaurant owner at the exit of the prepared dishes. A transparent secure tunnel that protects the server from UV rays that are harmful to the skin was built by Nora Distribution for a practical and quick solution validated by the restaurateur in his daily use. In addition, we can equip the dumbwaiters with the UVLed device allowing the decontamination of the upright plates during the trip from one floor to another.

The main weapon

The solution for disinfecting all surfaces with a portable trilogy LED UV device allows the disinfection of bank card readers, tables, touch screens or objects touched in common to avoid any contamination between employees or customers: this disinfection is carried out before and after service to guarantee a healthy environment. This process has been validated by the Haguenau Hospital’s Hygiene Operations Team on a test with bacterial contamination carried out on 40 smartphones (Dr. Olivier Meunier).

Surface disinfection (tablecloths, tables, keys, touch screens) SterilUV
Surface disinfection (tablecloths, tables, keys, touch screens) SterilUV

Surface disinfection is also the main anti-Covid weapon used by COMETE’s NRCB expert unit (with either ozone or UV technology). This unit has a database of more than 20,000 wastewater, air and surface samples. Ambient air analyses in public buildings have never been positive, whereas surfaces are very often identified as contaminated (door handles, work surfaces, elevator buttons, mice or keyboards…). Disinfection becomes essential to eliminate any presence of SARS-COV-2 and to guarantee users a healthy environment for prevention or treatment. The path between a surface, the soiled hand and the mask, mouth or eyes is short! This is why a perfect and fast disinfection of surfaces is desirable. A recent study reveals that the hand route seems more important than previously thought.


5- Saliva pre-testing: EasyCov by Skillcell

“A scientific study published on January 12, 2021 concludes that saliva sampling appears to be an equally sensitive and less expensive alternative to nasopharyngeal swabs for the collection of clinical specimens for the detection of SARS-CoV-2″ according to Dr. Wendling. The clinical performance of the EasyCov test on a series of asymptomatic subjects with respect to both diagnoses (RT-PCR on saliva and nasopharyngeal swabs) is one of the best currently available, all tests combined, with a sensitivity of 93.3% and a specificity of 100%.

While waiting for the vaccine

The working group hopes that this EasyCov saliva test will be available in the analysis laboratories of the city of Colmar and in Alsace as it has started in Belgium in the municipality of Hainaut, the city of Bagnolet for the municipal staff or the hospital of Le Creusot with very good results. Eric Girardin indicates that “we could propose regular testing for all staff on a voluntary basis, or even inform customers of this option before they come to enjoy the restaurant, and this in complete safety while waiting for the vaccine to allow them to return to a normal life”. EasyCov’s production is supported by the Eastern France region: its president, Jean Rottner, plans to make the vaccine available to high schools, universities, and cultural and living spaces as early as mid-December.

The Marseilles region has also recently been considering reopening EasyCov under the name “COVID FREE”, a project led by teams of scientists from the IHU Méditerranée, Martine Vassal, President of the Aix-Marseille-Provence metropolitan area and the Bouches-du-Rhône department, and Bernard Marty, President of UMIH 13. A project taken as far as the Ministry of Health.

In Alsace? According to Victor Vincentz, the project has been completed: “in addition to saliva testing, which could be implemented but which is never 100% reliable, our material and technological solutions enable us to propose to launch into the experiment with a security of the potential human or food source via perfect hand and surface hygiene and a security of transmission by sputum. Let us recall that a vaccinated or falsely negatively tested subject could theoretically contaminate both the kitchen and the customers. Barrier and food hygiene solutions are therefore, in our opinion, useful complements”.

The partners of the project

  • Concept Light: Alsatian company which offers a range of UV Led including STERILUV Compact. This restoration device, which can be used in many sectors, has demonstrated its effectiveness in inactivating CoV-2-SARS by reducing viral infectivity by more than 6 log10.
  • Nora distribution: an Alsatian company that makes transparent separations of tables, counters and any custom-made parts in Plexiglas or transparent plastic on request, which is at the origin of the prototype of a transparent secure tunnel for exposure.
  • Coversafe : CoversafeTM is a self-adhesive film with exceptional anti-microbial characteristics. The CoversafeTM antimicrobial film is developed and marketed by Gergonne Industrie. It incorporates Pylote’s natural and revolutionary technology.
  • EasyCov, a 100% French test is the product of a consortium: the CNRS-SYSDIAG of Montpellier, the company VOGO and the company SKILLCELL subsidiary ALCEN, which markets the test. Finally, FIRALIS, which is in Alsace, has invested 400m² of premises provided by the CCI Sud-Alsace. It has the capacity to manufacture, for the moment, one million tests per month.
  • Menu card to be seeded: NATEVA le papier ensemencé a responsible and unique solution.

Contact project manager : Victor Vincentz – (33) 3 89 21 09 15 – Zero Covid Project Manager in the catering industry.

Dr Wendling declares that he has no interest in the private partners mentioned in this article.

Alsace,France,Great East,