Looking ahead: How to ensure customers feel safe and confident post-lockdown

Right now, the hospitality industry is navigating completely unknown territory. Not only are most operators dealing with the temporary closure of their venues, but this crisis is likely to  completely transform the way hospitality businesses will operate after lockdown restrictions are lifted. 

When thinking about life post-lockdown, it’s not just the practical changes that businesses will have to focus on. The greatest challenge will be ensuring that customers feel safe to return to hospitality outlets.

Some of the most pressing questions being asked by hospitality businesses include: 

  • How can businesses demonstrate their venue offers a safe environment in which to work and socialise? 
  • How can infection control measures be implemented overtly, while not being off-putting? 
  • How can this be communicated effectively to staff and customers?

In this article, Jill Whittaker, Managing Director of HIT Training, helps to answer these questions by sharing best practice and guidance from around the world on how businesses can safely reopen in the future. She explores how effective infection control and communication will protect the health and wellbeing of staff and customers, giving people the confidence to visit hospitality venues once again.

Learning from experience

Other countries around the globe are starting to relax lockdown measures and reopen hospitality outlets. Here in the UK, we can benefit from observing and learning from the infection control measures being put in place, giving us valuable insight into how the UK’s hospitality industry might look and operate in the future.

As expected, hospitality venues in these countries are operating cautiously with new procedures to keep staff and customers safe, while offering essential reassurance to those wanting to eat and drink out of home again. 

Some of these precautions include measuring customers’ temperature, requesting that they sanitise their hands and enabling physical distancing measures to continue by filling venues to a reduced capacity. Effective training for staff is another big factor; for example, hospitality staff in Australia will be required to complete mandatory COVID-19 hygiene training before the re-opening of hotels, bars, restaurants and cafés. 

When it comes to preparing hospitality outlets for the future, there’s definitely no one size fits all. Operators know their own staff and customers better than anyone else. Businesses in the UK should start thinking about which measures will work for their business and how they can be implemented effectively.

Communication is key

Telling customers and staff what infection control measures you plan to implement to ensure their safety is vital. 

Giving your customers confidence to visit your venue means providing them with essential information, and it means being overt about what you are doing. Previously, sanitisation procedures were something kept hidden behind the scenes. However, it’s now likely that people will feel safer walking into a building if they see comprehensive cleaning taking place frequently.

We recommend that this communication starts before social distancing restrictions are lifted and continues into the future, so customers and employees are always kept up to date and know what to expect when they return to a venue.

Prepare for the future now

The prospect of being responsible for protecting the health and wellbeing of staff and customers post-lockdown, as well as adopting a range of new infection control procedures, may feel overwhelming for individuals working in this industry. 

To support hospitality professionals in feeling empowered to return to their workplace, equipped with the knowledge to operate safely, there are a range of training resources available that offer essential guidance in infection control. 

Now is the ideal time to start informing and training employees on their new responsibilities, so that businesses can hit the ground running once the lockdown is lifted. With many hospitality professionals furloughed, it is important to remember that they can still undergo formal training while away from the business.

At HIT Training, we’ve developed a downloadable best-practice guide on Infection Control and Safe Working to support hospitality professionals during these challenging times. It includes insight and information on how infections spread, guidance on implementing necessary measures to keep customers and staff safe, as well as advice on offering reassurance to customers to ensure they feel confident to return to hospitality venues in the future. 

We’re all in this together and I firmly believe that if we continue to communicate, share best practice and develop our skills, the industry will be more resilient than ever. When the time comes for the industry to open its doors in the future, hospitality businesses will be empowered to offer customers a safe environment where they can appreciate the joys of this fabulous industry once more – great food, drink and experiences to share with their friends and family.

For additional information and advice, HIT Training’s guide on Infection Control and Safe Working can be viewed here

By Jill Whittaker, managing director of HIT Training  

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