While the avian flu has only been known to spread from a live animal to a human, meaning you cannot catch the H5N1 virus from cooked chicken, that fact may not make people feel any more enthusiastic about ordering a grilled chicken dish if bird flu is found in the United States.
To prevent that type of confusion, Garren is involved in a public information campaign to make sure restaurant owners are prepared to deal with questions from diners. While educating them about how bird flu is spread, she also wants restaurateurs to start planning on their end by checking in with their suppliers.
"Reassure yourself as a company that your suppliers have the ability to control this. … And have alternative suppliers if that supplier you get is quarantined by the USDA," she said.
The National Restaurant Association has also been doing scenario planning with major restaurant companies like Darden Associates, which owns Red Lobster. While it has not conducted actual drills, she said, it is assessing how businesses will respond in the event of a crisis.