By now, I suspect the initial jubilation felt by most in the hospitality industries at the prospect of reopening may have receded into a growing sense of panic as to how to do so safely. The Government’s announcement last week that pubs, bars and restaurants can reopen on 4 July is clearly hugely welcome, but without careful planning it may be all too temporary.
This Saturday brings to a close a horrendous three months for the restaurant and pub sectors in which takeaways have been the maximum offering, with most simply forced to shut up shop. But reopening is scary.
How do you successfully reopen while enabling people to respect social distancing? What exactly should you be doing to keep your premises clean? And, most importantly, how do you keep your staff and customers safe?
The answer to this will of course depend on the layout and nature of your business, but we do believe it’s always worth considering the following golden rules.
Keep your staff safe
It really is so fundamental to remember that everything you do to reopen should be done on the proviso that staff can operate safely.
With around 80% of staff in the hospitality sectors having been furloughed for the past three months, many of your staff will be desperate to return to work. You will, however, also have staff who are scared about returning and nervous to suddenly find themselves face-to-face with customers again.
To ensure your staff can feel as safe and confident about returning to work as possible, you should have a clearly communicated set of rules for ensuring staff safety. Staff should also be asked to use PPE wherever they can. Crucially, it is worth remembering that social distancing doesn’t just apply to customers; where possible your staff should be able to keep a safe distance from each other too.
Finally, keeping your staff safe may sometimes mean having to say ‘no’ to your customers. This can be uncomfortable in an industry dominated by the mantra that ‘the customer is always right’, but it really is important.
Take every precaution you can
You and your staff may already practice the highest hygiene standards but there is no harm in reviewing and reminding every member of staff of your hygiene procedures. The more you remind yourself to wash your hands and avoid touching your face, the more likely you are to remember. Your business should approach hygiene as you might approach a fire drill – regular practice is important.
Additionally, one of the most important and practical steps you can take is to ensure that your staff have a change of clothes for when they arrive at work. This can be effective in helping to reduce the spread of the virus.
Disinfect regularly. It really will make a difference.
Pick effective antibacterial and viricidal disinfectants to sanitise every surface and area on the premises, including any plexiglass screens. And, make sure to sanitise soft furniture and carpeting as well. Equally, research suggests that good ventilation can make a significant difference, and so you should look to have windows and doors open as much as possible.
As always, remember to look after yourself too. This means wearing a mask, gloves and protective clothing when cleaning and then safely discarding your disposable protective gear. You should also throw away vacuum cleaner bags every time you use the machine, just to be on the safe side.
And if you feel out of your depth cleaning up to a safe standard, then, maybe, you should consider outsourcing the job to a professional company. Ultimately, the businesses that succeed in the hospitality sector will be the ones that are able to reassure their customers and make them feel safe.
Customers can help too
It’s important to remember that your customers have a role to play too. This should include providing antiviral hand-gel at multiple points of access for guests.
You should look to introduce clear and visible signage to remind customers of key health and safety messages and your new rules. Yes, we have all seen the signs about washing our hands. But being reminded really does make a difference, particularly when overwhelmed by your first meal out or first pint of beer in three months!
All of this, combined with the stress of trying to get everything else ready for reopening, may seem daunting. However, with clear plans in place to protect staff and customers, I firmly believe you will be able to successfully relaunch your businesses. Let’s make sure that Saturday is looked back on as a huge step towards normality for the nation.
By Rune Sovndahl, CEO and co-founder at Fantastic Services