How to Keep Employees and Customers Safe During the Coronavirus

***PLEASE NOTE – Since publication of this article additional states have mandated closing dine-in restaurants.  ***

How to Keep Employees and Customers Safe During the Coronavirus

With some creativity and planning , you can make this new reality work.

This is an overwhelming and stressful time for restaurant owners and operators as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads throughout the United States.

You may be in a state that has closed restaurant dining rooms, allowing you to offer take-out and delivery, or you may still have the opportunity to continue to offer in-restaurant seating.

But even if you do still offer in-restaurant seating, the White House has recommended that people should “avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants and food carts” advising citizens to use drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options.

With more than 8525 cases in the United States as of March 18, it’s time for restaurants to come together and develop a plan for dealing with the crisis.

Many of the recommendations from the CDC to prevent the spread of the virus are steps you should already be taking in your restaurant, but a strong refresher course for your team is imperative if the United States is going to “flatten the curve.” (tweet this)

The Latest Guidelines on the Coronavirus

According to the CDC and the White House, there are many things you can do to keep everyone safe and mitigate spread of the Coronavirus.

The biggest take-away from the most recent information is that restaurants and bars should offer drive-thru, pick-up, and delivery options in lieu of keeping their dining rooms open. Why? The President’s plan calls for “15 Days to Slow the Spread.”

The recommendation is for strict social distancing of at least six feet away from people, which is hard to do in a restaurant dining room.

If you’re in a part of the country that doesn’t have mandated restricted service or closure, and you want to keep your dining area open, consider moving tables further apart so there is six feet of distance between them.

Utilize your POS systems for ordering and payment and encourage wait staff to stay at least three to six feet away from customers.

keep customers safe

One way to keep customers safe is to offer delivery options.

If You are Staying Open

For those restaurants who are keeping their dining rooms open, the most important thing you can do is mitigate risk and then let your customers know what you are doing to mitigate their risk.

The number of states that mandate closing restaurants

You want to put this information out through your email channels, post it on your website, and share it on your social media channels several times per week.

In a recent study, of the people surveyed, 56% reported eating out at least two to three times per week, while 10% of them said they eat out four to six times each week, and  six percent said they eat out every day.

While those numbers may drop some during the pandemic, your customers still want to eat good food that’s prepared for them. So, reiterate your mitigation policies often to create an atmosphere of safety for your customers.

If You are Open Thru Take-Out and Delivery

Thousands of restaurants across the country are ordered to only offer take-out and delivery, while many others are simply choosing to go this route.

You want to take all the same precautions as if your dining room was open when it comes to mitigating the spread of illness.

It is also a good idea to broadcast your take-out and delivery options in every available spot. This is especially important if you don’t usually offer delivery options.

Let your customers know if you are delivering food with your own staff or using a food delivery service. If it’s your staff, you can promise your customers safety. Let them know your drivers are washing their hands, using hand sanitizer, and using gloves when handling their food.

Have your drivers ring the doorbell and leave food on the customers’ porch to reduce contact and encourage social distancing.

Best Practices for Keeping Staff and Customers Safe

Here is a list of best practices to institute at your restaurant:

  • Tell your employees not to come to work if they are sick, or someone in their household is sick.
  • If someone in their household has tested positive for COVID-19, tell the team member to stay home. This holds true if they’ve been around anyone who has tested positive. If they’ve traveled to a part of the country where there is ongoing community spread, ask them to stay home for 14 days.
  • Reduce the number of chairs in your restaurant so people can sit at least 6 feet apart.
  • Consider setting aside an hour for people age 60 and up to pick-up their food so they feel safer coming inside. Offer free delivery for them as well.
  • Remind your team to wash their hands on a very frequent basis, doing so for 20 seconds and catching all parts of their hands and fingers. Provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol for their use.
  • Put hand sanitizer around your restaurant for customer usage.
  • Check the temperatures of staff when they arrive at work.
  • Teach your staff about appropriate respiratory etiquette such as covering coughs and sneezes in their elbow or with a tissue they immediately throw in the trash, and then wash their hands.
  • Avoid close contact (six feet) with your customers. Space out their work areas. Consider having less people in the kitchen or on the floor at a time.
  • Disinfect surfaces every hour. This includes door handles, countertops, cash registers, check out areas, food prep and packaging areas, light switches, and more.
  • Have all team members wear gloves and change them often.
  • Restrict the number of customers and employees in your restaurant at one time.

Restaurants Can Help the Community

If you are in a position to do so, you can show your support to your local community. As many workers find themselves out of work because of the Coronavirus, and their children are sent home from school, people will be hungry.

Consider partnering with your local food bank or other charitable organization to help fill bags of food for those less fortunate.

Final Thoughts

This is a stressful time for restaurant owners across the world, but the good news, the Coronavirus won’t last forever.

It’s time to get creative to encourage people to order take-out and delivery. At the same time, it’s up to you to reassure your customers. Let them know you are doing everything possible to make sure the food you deliver them is safe to eat. (tweet this)

Institute new policies surrounding the packaging of your to-go, pick-up, and delivery meals. Encourage a touchless approach.

Then, let your customers know that there is no hand to hand contact without a clean glove with any food you are providing them. Offer contact-less delivery and promote it.

With a little creativity, online ordering, new offerings, some patience, and a lot of disinfecting, you can still get your restaurant’s food in the hand of happy customers. 

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Images:  Drew Beamer and Zhanjiang Chen on Unsplash

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