Two local restaurants qualify for Palmetto Priority designation

An employee at Root Cellar in downtown Batesburg wipes down the menus as part of the protocol for earning a Palmetto Priority safety designation from the state. Staff photo by Tony Baughman

If you have dined out in the last several weeks and have seen a “Palmetto Priority Seal,” you can dine assured that extra measures have been taken to ensure that your dining experience is a safe one.

The “Palmetto Priority” program began in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and is a way for restaurant owners in the Palmetto State to show that they are committed to providing a clean and safe environment for their staff and customers. Participation is entirely voluntary, and restaurants that choose to participate in the program must complete a checklist of operations, participate in required free online education, and commit to a food safety inspection by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

This no-cost program is offered to restaurant owners overseen by the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, the state’s trade organization serving the hotel and dining industries. The program also allows customers to provide feedback about their experiences at the participating restaurants.

So far, two restaurants in the town of Batesburg-Leesville are participating in the “Palmetto Priority” program.  The owners of the Root Cellar in the downtown Batesburg district, Blair and Ashley Simms, felt that committing to this program was “the right thing to do.”

“Safety for our staff and customers is the most important aspect of our business. We were already doing many of the things that were guidelined in the program, so it was not a difficult process,” said Mrs. Simms. They checked off the last step in becoming “certified” last Thursday when they completed the virtual DHEC inspection.

Hardee’s in Batesburg-Leesville also has taken their COVID-19 safety precautions to the next level to participate in the “Palmetto Priority” program. Carolina Convenience Corporation, a family-operated business, owns four Hardee’s restaurants in Lexington and one in Batesburg-Leesville.

“Our restaurants already had stringent safety guide lines in place for COVID-19, and this program now ensures that our staff is working even harder to protect themselves and customers,” said Seema Shrivastava, President of Carolina Convenience Corporation. “By being a part of this program, we are separating ourselves from our competitors to make sure we are doing the right thing for our customers and staff.”

Mrs. Shirvastava also is a board member at DHEC, representing the 2nd Congressional District. As both a restaurateur and an advocate for public health, she feels this is a great program for customers – and restaurant owners – to continue to take all necessary precautions necessary to fight the spread of COVID-19.

For more information regarding “Palmetto Priority,” search the website at Anyone with a concern about a participating restaurant can make comments and answer survey questions about your dining experience on the website.

Two restaurants have taken the lead, now let’s all – restaurant owners and patrons – continue to do our to prevent the further spread of COVID -19 in the Palmetto State.