More than sanitation: Ways to make your foodservice guests and employees feel safe

September 14, 2020

Doing right for your customers and your employees means so much more today than it once did. In the current climate of COVID-19, the onus falls to foodservice managers to see that their operations protect these vital groups so they can keep their businesses running, their staff employed and maintain a little slice of normal for their customers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides comprehensive advice on proper sanitization techniques for keeping your business as clean as possible. We’re not going to dwell on that here. Instead we’re going to focus today’s blog on a few ways in which you can make your foodservice business safer for employees and guests above and beyond what you have already implemented thorough cleaning practices*.

Reduce third-party delivery services

Now is the time to reduce those deliveries as much as possible. You can do this by:

  • Making larger, more infrequent orders. This can reduce your interactions with delivery drivers, though it may require your storage areas to be more packed than normal.
  • Consolidate vendors. This may result in you paying more for some items or not shopping locally, but it is an effective way to reduce your interactions with delivery drivers.

Automate whenever possible

In this era of social distancing, it’s in the best interest of your business to remove human interactions whenever possible. Automated solutions — be they payment solutions or cleaning solutions — can reduce staff exposure and staff hours in the restaurant. For example, employing solutions like Restaurant Technologies’ Total Oil Management and Grease Lock allows you to reduce staff time and exposure risk by trusting automated solutions to tackle these vital cleaning tasks.

Offer designated services for high-risk customers

Patrons over the age of 60 who are at high risk of developing COVID-19 could greatly benefit from services aimed at making them feel comfortable. This could include shopping or eating periods set aside only for them to minimize their risk. You could also offer free delivery to older patrons to show your support. Let would-be patrons know of your cleaning plans before their visit and they will be more apt to take you up on your generous offer.

Institute a mask policy in your business

Some states have already adopted mandatory mask policies, but if your state has not done so, making masks mandatory, unless seated, is a great way to show your employees and your customers you’re doing everything in your power to keep them safe. Communicate this mandate to your customers through your website, email, social channels and on the front door to avoid any misunderstandings.

Limit staff exposure to customers

The face of customer service must change during COVID-19. While you want your staff to be available to your customers, there are interactions that can be removed in the name of safety. Automated checkouts or pay-at-the-table stations and discouraging cash payments are just a couple of ways to limit staff exposure. You should also consider adding protective shields in areas where interactions are common.

Consider the staff and customer impact at every level

Sometimes the littlest things have the potential to be the biggest problem. A line of customers waiting to pay at the register would give you little pause normally but now it would be a potential disaster.

As you think through daily operations in your restaurant consider each possible instance for customers and employees and eliminate or troubleshoot problem areas. Remember that interactions between customers and staff can go no longer than 10 minutes, as per the CDC, and make sure your current business processes have ruled that and other complications out.

Err on the side of safety

If employees are showing signs of a potential COVID-19 infection (including fever, headache, coughing and more), health experts recommend you tell them to stay home. If they see such symptoms from any guest, ask them to notify you immediately.

Remember the mental aspect

This is a stressful time for everyone but for your employees, who must work around other, potentially sick people to earn a living, the time is especially stressful. Remember their mental health and take the extra time to be there for them in any way possible.

Hanging a poster like this in an area where they can see it will help and you can also promote the use of apps like Happify, Headspace and AnxietyCoach to support their mental health. Lastly, make sure your work space is a positive environment. The restaurant industry can be stressful even at the best of times but you want your employees to be happy to come to work and enjoy that slice of normalcy.

This holds true for guests as well. Remember that many will see a trip to your restaurant as a chance to return to life as it used to be. Make it fun for them and give them an opportunity to forget about the pandemic, even for just a little while.

Learning more

We hope you've found the information presented in this blog helpful. To learn more about how you can help your foodservice business through the COVID-19 pandemic, check out our new eBook "Establishing your new normal: A comprehensive guide to navigating foodservice during COVID-19" today.

* Nothing herein constitutes legal advice or other formal direction or guidance of any kind. The information herein is offered for general information purposes only.

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