Hygiene. Nothing is more important to your guests at your restaurant after this pandemic. Before the pandemic, a survey found that most people in the UK did not check hygiene ratings. No one in Edinburgh identified it as a reason they ordered from a place.
After lockdown, 75% of people said that hygiene would play a role in deciding where to dine out. That’s a change from nobody to almost everybody. That is a colossal shift.
To ensure that guests feel safe and can relax while dining out, training is key. Communicating your hygiene practices effectively to both your staff and customers will help rebuild trust in the restaurant’s safety.
When entering the restaurant, the first thing you notice is where you want to be seated. “Oh, look! A nice table by the window.” Now in our heads, it’s whether we will be too close to strangers.”Having clear markings and signage indicating social distancing helps remind guests that you are taking precautions to keep them safe and how they can help. Have the waiters take a step back when taking the order so that everyone is aware of the personal space needing to be kept. This says to your guests that the waiter is keeping their safety in mind and that they should keep everyone else’s in mind.
If you tell them the rules, most people will happily do their bit. I like to know, and I’m sure you do too, what is expected of me. There’s nothing worse than not knowing the rules of the game everyone else is playing. So, when they make their reservation, let the customer know the rules.
How many households? How long can they be at the table? And what are you doing to keep the restaurant safe? Show off your anti-covid procedures. And if they are just walking in, tell them at the door. The pandemic is not a secret. Just talk about it openly. Get their details and welcome them into your establishment. A big happy welcome can lift the sense of restriction as they are finally back out enjoying themselves.
People are eager to find out how you are tackling COVID-19. As one article highlights, ‘Yelp found a 41% increase in interest for businesses that added COVID-19 updates to their Yelp pages’. So a good response can mean more people will want to dine with you. People are looking for businesses that are treating the rules seriously to relax and feel a sense of normalcy. Building a good reputation for safety can not only help to draw in new customers, who have shown an increased interest in COVID-19 updates, but can insulate you from unfair criticism. If the rules are clear and there for the customers’ safety, a Yelp review complaining about them will come across as less legitimate. You have already informed them. Giving out this information can be really helpful to guests at risk or more nervous about going out again.
If a guest is feeling nervous, encourage them to visit at off-peak times. We all want to eat at the same time, lunch at 1 sounds good. But eating a bit later or earlier can be a lifesaver at the moment. Less crowds mean less risk, and with the kitchen less rushed, it is easier for them to ensure hygienic practices and avoid cross-contamination.
Finally, your guests can take off their masks once at the table. A welcome freedom and a signifier to relax, you are in safe hands.
Of course, you have to keep up with the old 4 Cs system. Cleaning every surface, Cooking properly, avoiding Cross Contamination, and Chilling, which as a C is a bit of a stretch but just means safely storing any leftovers. But now there is the fifth C, Covid.
All your staff need to be doubly aware and focused on keeping themselves and the customers safe. Staff and customers alike will need to be given hand sanitiser throughout the restaurant so they can clean their hands. Staff, in particular, should be made aware and kept focused on ensuring that they sanitise before and after handling food, touching money, cleaning utensils, or interacting with high contact surfaces.
Provide masks for your staff to keep them safe and to communicate to the guests to keep theirs on. Making it a part of the uniform could help the team to remember to keep them on. You could even provide ones of your own that portray your businesses unique style or brand. The mask is a new part of your aesthetic, where you can say something about your business.
Ensuring your chefs wear masks at all times when cooking can help keep the restaurant hygienic and your staff safe. Providing masks for staff rather than mandating they buy their own helps to make them feel valued. By doing this, you indicate that you are caring for their safety and the customers. The company is not just following the rules; it is being proactive in fighting COVID-19.
Takeaway has become a major way restaurants can provide food for guests during the pandemic. It does, however, present its own issues to businesses. The outside element of the delivery driver and packaging introduce new hygiene issues. To solve these, ensure that your delivery drivers are trained in the proper handling of food. Ensure that their health is monitored correctly, get updates every day they work. And where possible, bring the food to them, rather than have them enter the kitchen. Putting the food in plastic containers which they can avoid touching and which only the customer will hold can ensure that risk is limited.
Keeping staff trained on these processes and ensuring they are communicated to your customers can be nothing but good for the health of your business and all the people involved. Right now, hospitality is in a perilous moment, but taking the right precautions can lead to your restaurant coming out strong and with a great reputation as a trusted dining out experience. At your best, you can be an island of normalcy which your guests desperately want. By following good hygiene practices, the guests will tuck into your food knowing that the restaurant is safe, the food is safe, and they are safe.