Kitchen Biz Search

58 Years of Sneeze-Free Dining

By Lee Davis, CFSP


Fifty-eight years ago this week, the Sneeze Guard was invented by a Pennsylvania germaphobe, named Johnny Garneau. He owned a popular chain of Midwest Smorgasbord restaurants, and who knows how many cases of physical contamination and foodborne illness have been prevented by his invention.


Today, sneeze guards (a.k.a., food shields, breath guards) are not just a good idea, they’re required in virtually all U.S. jurisdictions for buffets, food displays and self-service operations. According to the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe® curriculum, sneeze guards should be located 14” above the counter, and extend at least 7” out in front of the food pans.


When choosing a sneeze guard, you’ll be faced with a number of decisions. Aside from width, probably the first consideration is whether you need a permanently mounted sneeze guard for a fixed serving line, or a free standing, multi-purpose sneeze guard that can be appropriated for multiple uses. Perhaps your second decision will be related to materials. Stands can be painted steel, stainless steel, aluminum or polymer. Shields are tempered glass or acrylic. Considerations when choosing materials include styling, weight, cleanability, and durability.


Below is a list of our favorite sneeze guard manufacturers (in alphabetical order). Among them, you’re sure to find the right sneeze guard for your application.

Advance Tabco: Advance can fabricate just about anything you need, but they also have a catalog of high quality stainless steel and tempered glass sneeze guards for permanent mounting in standard widths ranging from 36” to 96” and beyond. We really like Advance’s patented Chamber Lock design that allows the glass shields to be rotated for easy cleaning and quick adjustments.

Cal-Mil: Cal-Mil offers a large variety of uniquely stylish, lightweight, freestanding units featuring acrylic shields and metal brackets. We especially like their Suspended Sneeze Guards, both double and single, designed to be hung from the ceiling above a buffet.

Cambro: Cambro offers a rugged, freestanding, molded polymer sneeze guard with acrylic panels (see photo). It comes in a variety of bright colors that are great for school applications, catering, and sporting events. The Free-Standing Sneeze Guard is generally sold as part of Cambro’s Salad Bar assembly, but can be ordered separately.

Carlisle: Carlisle makes a large variety of simple, quality, stand alone sneeze guards in standard widths ranging from 24” to 72”. Featuring aluminum stands and acrylic shields, they are lightweight and versatile. Single or double sided, Carlisle offers a great value. They also offer a ceiling suspended sneeze guard package.

Duke: Duke’s BG, 400, 500 and 8/900 series food shields offer a variety of great solutions in a complete range of price points from “Custom Exclusives” to “Value Alternatives.” With stainless steel brackets and glass shields, their products are designed for permanent mounting. Powder Coating, heat rods, and lighting are available options.

Nemco: If you need a sneeze guard for a hot dog roller grill, Nemco’s got you covered. They offer a molded polycarbonate guard with a door for self-service, or a canopy guard that allows operators to load the grill from behind.

Vollrath: Vollrath offers a great selection of sneeze guards for numerous applications. Employing various materials to match the application, they can add heat strips, lights, and other features to customize your purchase. Some models come in as many as nine different powder coating color options. We especially like their foldable, mobile, breath guards that can be folded up and slipped into a handy carrying case for storage and transportation.

So check out these manufacturers, and be sure to visit a salad bar or buffet this week. Fill your plate, enjoy your meal, and don’t forget to remember inventor Johnny Garneau for 58 years of sneeze-free dining.