In recent weeks, restaurants have spent a lot of time focusing on ways to keep their operations running during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many shifted to third-party delivery platforms, reduced staff, and scaled down menu offerings to help minimize labor and cost. It was the necessary steps needed for operations to survive in a world without dine-in services.
Recently, parts of the country have started transitioning to life post-pandemic and began allowing restaurants to once again open their doors to dine-in guests at a limited capacity. Eventually this will extend to all states across the country and we will see restaurants everywhere welcoming patrons back.
With this new dawn approaching, it’s time for restaurants to shift their focus back to dine-in operations to ensure they are prepared to re-open. A big part of this focus needs to be on health, cleaning, and sanitation. Understandably, patrons may feel skeptical returning to physical operations due to lingering concerns around COVID-19 and other potential illnesses. However, there are some key steps restaurants can follow to help alleviate that concern.
Anticipate Needs and Concerns from Guests
There is a lot of uncertainty around how guests will adapt to dining in at restaurants again. What’s clear is that the public will have a heightened focus on cleanliness and sanitation and will be looking for a sense of safety upon their return1.
One way to directly address this is to be proactive in sanitation efforts. Guests are uncomfortable using menus touched by other patrons? Replace them with single-use paper menus or encourage them to use their phones as the menu. Social distancing is a top concern? Utilize floor markers throughout restaurants to help maintain proper spacing between guests.
As restaurants start to re-open, there will likely be a slower volume of patrons coming in than before the pandemic. Being able to proactively anticipate and address the concerns of patrons will help create a sense of trust and allow guests to know that the restaurant is a safe place to begin reconvening life1.
Follow Proper Cleaning Procedures
When it comes to re-opening locations in current times, cleaning and sanitizing must be top of mind for all operators. Most importantly, operating procedures must include the cleaning and sanitization of all-contact surfaces in both front and back of house2. While it sounds like a simple task, there are several steps that need to be followed to ensure the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases are prevented.
- Clean: remove physical dirt, dust, and debris from surfaces. This step does not kill germs and bacteria but impairs environments that harbor them 1
- Sanitize: reduces the occurrences and growth of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and pathogens on surfaces 1
- Disinfect: kills or destroys microscopic organisms and pathogens on surfaces. While it does not clean dirt or germs off the surface, it does prevent infection or disease transmissions by killing the pathogens
It may seem like a daunting task to ensure all steps are followed properly when cleaning the surfaces throughout a restaurant, but there are several tools available for operators. Organizations like the CDC have provided ample information on hygiene and sanitation for the food service industry. Additionally, Consolidated Concepts and Buyers Edge Platform have created a Sanitation Best Practices guide for operators to follow. Manufacturers like Unilever and Georgia-Pacific have also created checklists that restaurants can reference to ensure they properly clean their establishments to meet OSHA guidelines.
Communication is Key
Nearly as important as properly cleaning restaurants is communicating to patrons that cleaning measures are happening. This is a key step in the re-opening process. Whether beneficial or not, guest perception will quickly become a restaurant’s reality. If a patron questions the quality of an operation’s sanitation, it may impact their likelihood of returning.
Communication efforts should be focused on educating the guests of what proactive measures are being taken to keep a restaurant clean and help keep guests safe1. It’s important to use visual and psychological cues to let guests know you are diligently following safe and effective cleaning and sanitation protocols. Posting guidelines for social distancing by the entrances1, hanging easy-to-follow hand hygiene guides in restrooms, and clearly identifying separate areas for pick-up or delivery are some ways to help proactively communicate efforts to patrons.
Additionally, it’s important to reinforce proper hand hygiene3 and cleaning procedures for staff throughout restaurants so guests can visually see the sanitation practices taking place. There are a number of products available from manufactures like Essity and Georgia-Pacific to help make this easy.
Reinforcing proper hand hygiene and sanitation is a benefit for staff and patrons. There are additional steps available help ensure personnel is prepared to re-open the restaurant.
A big thing to consider when re-opening a restaurant is staffing. Due to ongoing concerns around COVID-19, restaurants should anticipate a potential lag in staffing in the early stages of re-opening. As a result, it’s important to be prepared to hire and onboard new personnel if needed1.
From there, it is important to ensure the health of staff before they return to work. Adding a temperature kiosk is an easy way to protect the safety of employees and guests by preventing entry from anyone with a temperature. It’s also important to encourage employees to stay home if they are not feeling well.
All staff will need to be trained on new cleaning and sanitation processes and encouraged to practice them regularly. Keep ample cleaning supplies and easy-to-reference protocols readily available to staff throughout the restaurant. Sanitation checklists from Consolidated Concepts, Georgia-Pacific, Tork, and Unilever can be a great tool here.
If restaurants are planning to re-open dine-in services soon, it’s important to think ahead and prepare accordingly for the re-open process. COVID-19 has left a big impact on the industry and heavily influenced the public’s mind as it relates to health and sanitation. Having the right plan in place to tackle sanitation concerns can ultimately help operations succeed in the re-open process and gain back the trust of patrons.
Consolidated Concepts is here to help. If you are interested in learning about sanitation and cleaning products available through our platform or other ways a GPO can help you in the re-opening process, contact us! We’d love to meet you.