Reston, VA

As restaurants look to serve diners indoors safely during the pandemic, Silver Diner has started using a new system to keep the interiors of its restaurants sanitized.

The regional chain says that it is the first U.S. restaurant to install an air purification system that uses three technologies — ultraviolet light, bipolar ionization technology and HEPA filtration, according to a press release.

The systems were installed at all of Silver Diner’s locations by last Wednesday (Aug. 12), according to co-founder and head chef Ype Von Hengst.

“I think that in this world you’ve got to adapt and change to fit what’s needed,” Hengst said. “It’s our responsibility as restaurateurs to create a new norm.”

Already, Hengst said that both the Reston and Tysons locations have seen a substantial jump in customers who feel safe about eating inside.

Silver Diner spent roughly $500,000 on the system for the restaurants, according to Hengst, who added that the cost was worth it to protect staff and customers. The air purification system was designed by Veteran LED, a veteran-owned lighting and energy management firm.

The technology has been used before in hospitals, schools and medical care facilities but never a restaurant, according to a press release.

Depending on size, each location has a large air purifier filer that covers roughly 1,000 cubic feet of air and then smaller purifiers that support roughly 250 feet of additional cubic footage, according to Hengst.

“Germicidal UV-C lights installed throughout the HVAC system work to disinfect air and surfaces inside the system. Heavy-duty handheld UV-C light sterilizers are being used on high touch areas as part of the closing duties of the staff,” the press release said. “At night, when the restaurant is closed, the interior is bathed in germicidal UV-C light to help kill pathogens in the air and sterilize surfaces.”

Hengst said that the UV-C ceiling fixture runs for one hour each night. The restaurant claims that the system gets rid of 99.9% of the encountered pathogens.

While UV-C lights have been used as a disinfectant for decades and researchers found it can deactivate coronaviruses, the dosage, time duration and distance from the source can all impact how effective the lights are, Discover Magazine reported.

It’s unclear how effective UV treatment is against COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency cannot confirm whether it may be effective.

Additionally, Silver Diner locations are going to continue using personal protective equipment, printing menus on anti-microbial paper, requiring temperature checks, social distancing and following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Hengst.

Before the pandemic hit the NoVA area, Hengst said that he was beginning to notice a roughly 10% profit increase at both the Reston and Tysons locations, which he attributed to population growth in the areas.

Since Silver Diner installed the new technology last week, Hengst said that more and more people are requesting to sit inside, though it is too early to see if sales are increasing again.

In the months to come, Hengst said he hopes more restaurants can use the technology to “help open up the world again.”

Photos courtesy Silver Diner

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