Buying an air purifier for restaurants

We all enjoy a night out at our favourite restaurant. It is the perfect opportunity to spend time with loved ones and to let go of the week’s stress at a place we enjoy. Whilst enjoying a meal in a restaurant, the last thing we want to be concerned about is whether or not we are breathing clean air. Unfortunately, the reality is that the indoor air found in restaurants and bars often contains unsafe pollutants and aerosols that may pose dangers to our health. Which types of airborne contaminants can be found in restaurants? Can an air purifier in a restaurant help? Read below to learn more.

A folded napkin on a table in a restaurant

Indoor air quality in restaurants

Throughout Europe, the subject of indoor air quality (IAQ) has been making headlines in the past few years. Last year, in August of 2022, the United Nations General Assembly declared that ‘everyone on the planet has the right to a healthy environment, including clean air, water, and a stable climate’1. With 99% of the world’s population breathing air that exceeds the World Health Organization’s standards, it has become more important than ever to put clean breathing air at the top of our priority list. This is particularly pertinent to our indoor spaces which are generally 2 to 5 times more polluted than our outdoor spaces, sometimes even surpassing 100 times more polluted2.

Sources of air pollution in a restaurant

Indoor eating establishments are no exception to the above statement regarding pollution of indoor spaces. Sources of indoor air pollution in restaurants, bars, cafés, and similar places may include the following:

Fine particle pollution in restaurants

Fine particles in restaurants are a real problem that may lead to respiratory issues amongst staff and guests alike. A 2021 study that conducted a week-long analysis of indoor air quality in an open-kitchen restaurant found that the levels of PM10 and PM2.5 were ‘offensively harmful’, far exceeding both WHO and US EPA standards for healthy air quality4. Chances of contracting respiratory health problems are high for frequent diners and restaurant professionals in establishments where frying and/or grilling take place.

Cooking is a source of indoor PM in both homes and commercial kitchens, emitting significant levels of PM2.55,6 into our indoor environments. Exposure to PM2.5 has been associated with a variety of negative health effects including respiratory disease (like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD), multiple types of cancer (especially lung cancer), heart disease, pregnancy complications, and mental health disorders, to name a few. Pregnant women, children, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals are particularly at risk.

A chef cooking in a restaurant

Multiple studies have focused on the impact of air pollution in commercial kitchens. One such study was performed on 14 different restaurants that cook with charcoal throughout Kocaeli, Turkey’s second-largest city. The study found high levels of both fine particle pollution and trace metals present in the air. On average, PM2.5 levels were measured to be four times higher than the acceptable limit. Arsenic and chromium (IV) oxide, two airborne trace metals detected, have been associated with the most significant risk of cancer amongst restaurant workers7.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in restaurants

Another study conducted by the University of California Riverside on commercial meat cooking operations made findings on air quality in restaurants and bars. In addition to substantial levels of fine particulate matter, high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were measured: more specifically, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. VOCs cause a host of negative health effects, and formaldehyde is a known carcinogen in humans. This poses dangers to both restaurant staff and guests8.

VOCs are also released into our indoor environments through the use of everyday products including cleaning and disinfection products, new furniture, pesticides, candles, air fresheners, and more. Wooden furniture, decorative items, and construction materials used during building (like paints and varnishes) can off-gas formaldehyde and other contaminants in a restaurant for up to two years9. This contributes drastically to poor indoor air quality and poses dangers to our health.

Bacteria and viruses in restaurants

Restaurants provide potential for high risk of airborne microorganisms and infection. This is why these establishments remained closed during the COVID-19 pandemic: the SARS-CoV-2 virus was easily spread in restaurants.

Dining rooms and restrooms of restaurant establishments are places where pathogens like COVID-19 often circulate, leading to infection. In fact, at the height of the pandemic, COVID infection was 4% more likely to occur in individuals who had frequented restaurants or bars11. In places like restaurants where people release contaminated micro-droplets (aerosols) by eating, drinking, coughing, and talking without masks, contamination is at its highest potential. Exhalation of contaminated particles in aerosols in a restaurant setting leads to infection. Additionally, aerosols can remain airborne for up to several hours (two to three hours according to a study in Spain10), posing not just an immediate risk but one that can impact others long after an infected person has left the establishment.

Post-pandemic, many individuals still remain wary of potential exposure to disease and infection. Some customers may even search out restaurants that are equipped with air purifiers in restaurants that are designed to target bacteria and viruses in aerosols: guests expect a clean, pollutant-free environment in your establishment. An air purifier designed for dining rooms can significantly reduce indoor air pollution, combatting microbe concentrations in restaurants.

Customers are not the only individuals impacted by poor indoor air quality in business establishments. Propagation of bacteria and viruses also has implications for restaurant owners and staff from a business standpoint. Due to social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants were limited as to how many individuals they could allow inside at any given time to limit concentration of aerosols. Recruiting of staff also remains a challenge in 2023 as a result of the pandemic because it was and remains difficult for restaurants to enforce social distancing and keep staff healthy and safe.

A sign at a restaurant saying 'Sorry, we're closed'

Mould, dust, and pollen allergens in restaurants

Mould, dust, and pollen are three commonly-found forms of airborne allergens found inside a restaurant. Mould may be found in soda dispensers, beer lines, sinks, drains, floor mats, fridges, and coffee machines12. In order to proliferate, mould releases spores into our breathing air that can cause uncomfortable respiratory symptoms. They can also trigger asthma attacks in asthma sufferers.

Dust, dust mites, and pollen are equally as common in restaurants. In addition to their airborne presence, they can accumulate in all types of soft furnishings – couches, chairs, curtains, rugs, carpets, and more. The presence of dust and pollen leads to allergy symptoms in many individuals ranging from mild to severe. Exposure to these allergens is another major trigger of asthma attacks in asthma sufferers.

How does an air purifier for restaurants work?

Air purifiers work by pulling polluted air into the device, treating pollutants using one or more air filtration technologies, then recirculating the purified air back into the room. An air purifier for use in a restaurant should be designed for continuous use and should have multiple air filtration technologies to target a variety of air pollutant types. Some air purification technologies that are commonly found in air purifiers include:

Read more about Eoleaf’s proprietary 8-step purification process here.

Eoleaf's 8-step filtration method

The benefits of an air purifier for restaurants

Installing a high-performance air purifier in a restaurant can bring a variety of benefits to everyone that visits and uses the space.

Decrease the risk of cross-contamination and infection caused by airborne illnesses and pollutants

A high-quality air purifier is guaranteed to remove 99.97% of contaminants from your space. This includes viruses and emerging viral variants, bacteria, mould, dust and dust mites, allergens, and VOCs.

By using an air purifier in a restaurant for air filtration and purification, the risk associated with these airborne contaminants (particularly cross-infection by pathogens found in aerosols) is substantially reduced. As a result, customers, guests, and staff are protected from illnesses, fine particle pollution, and chemical pollution (VOCs).

Provide safer working environments for your staff

Removing contaminants found in your restaurant’s breathing air through air filtration and purification can have a positive impact on your staff and restaurant professionals. By continually providing clean air, working conditions and performance will greatly improve. Protecting your restaurant employees from biological air pollution like bacteria, viruses, mould, spores, dust, and dust mites helps ward off negative health effects and keep them healthy. Allergy symptoms, asthma attack triggers, and airborne disease risk are all reduced by properly implementing an air purification device.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends the use of a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA)-certified air purifier as an effective way to reduce infection at home and in the workplace13. However, the organisation emphasises that not just any air purifier will eliminate diseases as small as SARS-CoV-2 from the air. The device must be high-performance, capable of filtering 99.97% of extremely small particles and aerosols. HEPA-certified air purification devices are guaranteed to do so and keep your indoor air healthy.

Multiple studies have demonstrated the importance of removing fine particles and other contaminants from the air in the workplace. One study found that poor air quality can impact productivity and performance amongst employees by 6 to 9%14. It can also cause symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and dizziness, increasing the rates of absenteeism and sick leave in restaurants. Guest dissatisfaction is also increased as a result of indoor fine particulate air pollution. Another study by Harvard University showed that increased concentrations of PM2.5 and CO2 lead to impaired cognitive function and decreased efficiency across many professional disciplines15.

Investing in indoor air purification is investing in your employees and your business. Employees who see an employer that cares about their well-being also instils confidence and trust. This is a sentiment that will spread to new hires and facilitate the restaurant hiring process.

Increase customer confidence

Restaurant hygiene and comfort are two crucial factors that can make or break the customer restaurant experience. That said, indoor air quality can have a huge impact on the image of your business as seen by guests. You can control the image of your brand by showing customers that you put them first. Transparency goes a long way: customers will then associate your establishment as a place that cares about their health and well-being through air purification, enhancing their dining experience. The better the ambiance in your restaurant, the more you will encourage guests to return!

Terrace seating at a restaurant

How to choose an air purifier for restaurants?

When seeking out an air purifier to install in a restaurant, you should keep a few things in mind.

Size your device properly

Air purification devices are made to purify the air in a room of a given volume. Ensure that you purchase a device that can provide thorough air filtration in your area size. Here at Eoleaf, we recommend our AEROPRO 150 device for larger restaurants and dining rooms. For medium-sized rooms like a kitchen, our AEROPRO 100 would fit the bill. If installing an air purifier in a smaller room of the restaurant like a restroom, our AEROPRO 40 would be your best bet.

Consider your device’s Air Changes per Hour (ACH) and Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR)

Both metrics are important in determining whether or not your air purifier can treat your restaurant’s space, especially when removing aerosols from the air. ACH indicates how many times per hour the air in an area is replaced with purified air. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends an air purifier with an ACH of at least 6 to 12. CADR, on the other hand, determines the volume of clean air diffused per hour. It allows you to know what area size can be properly treated by your air filtration device.

Make sure your air purifier has the right filters

To combat fine particle pollution, a HEPA-certified filter is essential. For VOCs, activated carbon and photocatalysis technologies are ideal. For pathogens and aerosols, you will want a HEPA-certified filter and UVC sterilisation technology (the two work best together). For unpleasant odours (i.e. odours coming from the restaurant’s kitchen or smoke odours emanating from employees or customers who smoke outside), activated carbon filtration is the only technology that will remove them from your air. Even better: choose a device that contains all of these technology types like the devices offered at Eoleaf! Fight contaminants and odours all at once.

Ensure it is not too loud

A quiet air purifier is best in a restaurant’s dining room. This way, customers who are enjoying a romantic evening will not be disturbed.

Consider your air purifier’s aesthetic and features

Your restaurant’s air purifier should be able to blend in with any motif! Choose a modern, stylish, low-profile air purifier design. Discretion is best in a dining room. Also, certain features are convenient like handles and wheels for easy portability. Finally, smart features are great for a restaurant! A well-connected device can make your life easier. For example, you can set smart scheduling to have your device increase its fan speed just before opening time and after closing time.

Choose durability

Your restaurant air purifier will likely have to be running on a near consistent basis. Invest in a device that is high-capacity, made-to-last, easy-to-use, and reliable. It is preferred to choose a device with high-quality filters that only need changing once a year (like Eoleaf’s!).

For more information on how to properly choose an air purifier, refer to our in-depth Buying Guide. Also feel free to contact our team of air purification experts for any questions or help on sizing your project.

Eoleaf's AEROPRO 150 air purifier


Resources

1 Un declares healthy environment – including Clean Air – a human right. Climate & Clean Air Coalition. (2022, August 2). https://www.ccacoalition.org/news/un-declares-healthy-environment-including-clean-air-human-right

2 Wallace, L. A., Pellizzari, E. D., Hartwell, T. D., Whitmore, R., Sparacino, C., & Zelon, H. (1986). Total exposure assessment methodology (team) study: Personal exposures, indoor-outdoor relationships, and breath levels of volatile organic compounds in New Jersey. Environment International, 12(1–4), 369–387. https://doi.org/10.1016/0160-4120(86)90051-6

3 Professional Indoor Air Quality Solutions for restaurants and cafés. NatéoSanté. (2023, March 29). https://www.nateosante.com/en/business-solutions/air-purifier/hospitality-catering-tourism/restaurants-bars-cafes/

4 Chang HS, Capuozzo B, Okumus B, Cho M. Why cleaning the invisible in restaurants is important during COVID-19: A case study of indoor air quality of an open-kitchen restaurant. Int J Hosp Manag. 2021 Apr;94:102854. doi: 10.1016/j.ijhm.2020.102854. Epub 2021 Jan 14. PMID: 33776189; PMCID: PMC7979638.

5 Long CM, Suh HH, Koutrakis P. Characterization of indoor particle sources using continuous mass and size monitors. J Air Waste Manag Assoc. 2000 Jul;50(7):1236-50. doi: 10.1080/10473289.2000.10464154. PMID: 10939216.

6 Buonanno G, Stabile L, Morawska L. Personal exposure to ultrafine particles: the influence of time-activity patterns. Sci Total Environ. 2014 Jan 15;468-469:903-7. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.09.016. Epub 2013 Sep 28. PMID: 24080417.

7 Taner S, Pekey B, Pekey H. Fine particulate matter in the indoor air of barbeque restaurants: elemental compositions, sources and health risks. Sci Total Environ. 2013 Jun 1;454-455:79-87. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.03.018. Epub 2013 Mar 28. PMID: 23542481.

8 Gysel N, Welch WA, Chen CL, Dixit P, Cocker DR 3rd, Karavalakis G. Particulate matter emissions and gaseous air toxic pollutants from commercial meat cooking operations. J Environ Sci (China). 2018 Mar;65:162-170. doi: 10.1016/j.jes.2017.03.022. Epub 2017 Mar 27. PMID: 29548387.

9 Wang, Y., Wang, H., Tan, Y., Liu, J., Wang, K., Ji, W., Sun, L., Yu, X., Zhao, J., Xu, B., & Xiong, J. (2021). Measurement of the key parameters of VOC emissions from wooden furniture, and the impact of temperature. Atmospheric Environment, 259, 118510. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1352231021003319

10 Gobierno de España. (2020, November 18). Ministerio de Sanidad. Evaluation of the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via ambient aerosols. Methods of prevention and recommendations. https://www.sanidad.gob.es/en/profesionales/saludPublica/ccayes/alertasActual/nCov/documentos/COVID19_Aerosoles.pdf

11 Gozlan, M. (2020, September 13). COVID-19: According to a study, frequenting restaurants and bars poses a risk of infection. https://www.lemonde.fr/blog/realitesbiomedicales/2020/09/13/covid-19-selon-une-etude-la-frequentation-des-restaurants-et-bars-est-une-situation-a-risque-dinfection/

12 Commercial air purifiers for restaurants and hotels. Airinspace. (2023). https://www.airinspace.com/en/secteurs/hospitality/

13 Environmental Protection Agency. (2023, April 25). Air Cleaners, HVAC Filters, and Coronavirus (COVID-19) . EPA. https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus/air-cleaners-hvac-filters-and-coronavirus-covid-19

14 Wyon DP. The effects of indoor air quality on performance and productivity. Indoor Air. 2004;14 Suppl 7:92-101. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0668.2004.00278.x. PMID: 15330777.

15 Harvard University. (2021, September 9). Office air quality may affect employees’ cognition, productivity. T.H. Chan School of Public Health News. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/office-air-quality-may-affect-employees-cognition-productivity/

Eoleaf's range of air purifiers

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