The world is slowly reopening.
Restaurant owners are looking for creative ways to revamp the indoor dining experience with improved health and safety standards. During shut-downs, many restaurants were forced to move operations to carry-out and delivery only, but as the world begins to reopen, restaurants will need to figure out how to rebuild customer confidence around indoor dining operations.
Restaurant owners can use these helpful tips to promote key health and safety standards in order to regain trust and improve the overall customer experience:
Improve Air, Hand and Surface Hygiene
According to the CDC, the coronavirus is more likely to spread via airborne droplets. HEPA-13 portable air purifiers can be used to filter these contaminated droplets. When used in conjunction with proper air purifying systems, opening windows is another great way to improve indoor air quality by bringing in natural flowing air.
Although not as great, the risk of surface transmissions is still present. Restaurants can start by placing hand sanitizer stations at the entrance and in all high traffic areas. Each station should be accompanied by signs to remind customers that “right now” is a perfect time to sanitize.
Customers (and employees) will also be watching to see examples of how the facility is kept clean. Employees should frequently clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces such as:
- Tables and seating areas in dining rooms and lobbies
- Service counter
- Drink dispenser
- All handles (including door, cooler, and kitchen appliances)
- All bathroom surfaces including sink, faucets and paper towel dispenser
- Cash registers, tablets, receipt printers, and pin pads
- Drive thru headsets
Restaurants should take the time to review and update all disinfection procedures as well as re-train employees on proper disinfection protocols. Not all disinfectants can kill SARS-CoV-2. In the U.S., only products found on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's List N have been approved for use against SARS-CoV-2. As business increases, there will be new hires who are not familiar with these protocols. By updating disinfection standards and ensuring all staff members are fully trained, restaurant owners are taking an extra step in prioritizing the health and safety of every customer.
Restaurants are eager to welcome customers back for indoor dining, but many customers are apprehensive. One way to help customers feel safe is to post visual cues that the restaurant is in compliance with all health and safety protocols.
Placing signage on entryways is a great way to communicate current safety protocols and remind customers of the CDC’s recommended guidelines for social distancing. Use simple wording or icons to convey the message at a glance. Fonts should be readable from a distance. As a general rule, letters should be one inch tall (72 point font) to be read from ten feet away. Once inside, continue to encourage social distancing with visual markers on the floor.
When there are visual cues identifying the health and safety measures that have been put in place to protect customers, customers and employees alike will feel more confident and comfortable spending time inside the establishment.
Encourage Contactless Service
Customers are also excited to return to indoor dining establishments, but may be leery of touch points shared with other customers. Ease these fears by removing access to self-serve stations, table-top condiments and utensils. Pre-packaging utensils, napkins, and condiments can limit the number of contacts with each item. Offer electronic access to the menu through a QR code and promote touch-free ordering and payment options.
Service standards and expectations have changed, and this shift may require repurposing some staff from service to focusing on the health and safety of customers. Each shift should have a designated “disinfection lead” responsible for disinfecting surfaces and maintaining seamless execution of contactless service options.
Invest in Third-Party Assessments
Returning to the pre-covid "normal" for operations is not an option for restaurants as customers will remain hyper-aware of health and safety standards for the foreseeable future. There are many new protocols and expectations, and many new hires are learning the business from scratch.
By bringing in a third party to evaluate the restaurant’s operations, leaders will gain unbiased measures of operational excellence, including performance against brand standards and how well safety/hygiene protocols are being executed at the location level. They will identify areas for improvement and provide owners with confidence that they can mitigate the added challenges brought on by COVID-19.
In addition to promoting confidence, third party assessments can provide an insiders look at industry standards and for multi-location restaurants, it can help ensure a cohesive brand experience. By gaining unbiased feedback, an insider’s look into top industry standards, and the opportunity to build a cohesive brand experience, restaurants will cultivate a culture of excellence that will attract both new and returning customers.