Social Distancing Hospitality

July 30, 2020

Trust20 Contributors

As dining rooms open up, a crucial part of the process is reevaluating what hospitality means for the restaurant industry. Consumer interest in dining out is slowly starting to ramp up, but safety is still top of mind for many diners. Now is the time to look at what hospitality means in your restaurant, and how you can deliver great experiences for your guests while emphasizing safety.

Update your health & safety policy

A crucial component of re-opening and preparing your staff to welcome guests is to update your health and safety policy. COVID-19 has introduced news rules and regulations, as well as updated guidance from the CDC, about how to operate safely.

We’ve compiled a list of questions you should ask yourself as you make updates:

  • Are there any new local regulations that impact the operations of your restaurant?
  • What PPE will you provide to your staff? What is your procedure for disposing or sanitizing the PPE after us?
  • What social distancing measures does your staff need to take while working?
  • What safety measures does your staff need to take when arriving at work?
  • What is your sick leave policy? Who should staff contact if they are experiencing symptoms?
  • What social distancing measures do your guests need to take while dining? And how should your staff communicate the policy to your guests?
  • How should your staff handle customers who don’t comply with the social distancing rules?

For additional inspiration, check out Momofuko group’s health and safety website with their updated guidelines. Don’t forget, after you’ve updated your policy, to distribute a copy to each of your staff members.

Have a plan in place if an employee tests positive for COVID-19.

As you update your health and safety policy, it’s important to identify your protocol for if a staff member tests positive for COVID-19. Depending on your local laws, you may need to temporarily close your restaurant. Otherwise, make sure your plan aligns with the CDC’s safety recommendations.

Honesty is your best policy when it comes to staff testing positively. Communicate the positive test with your other employees, the health department, and your customers.

Guest communication

Be transparent with your customers

Communicating with your customers about your health and safety policy will go a long way in establishing trust. Make sure your customers know how you are ensuring the safety of both your guests and your staff throughout all aspects of your restaurant. Update your website with a specific health and safety page, share your social distancing policies on social media, and send out an email to your guests letting them know what to expect.

Communicate expectations from the beginning

When your guests arrive, make sure that they understand the rules and expectations of dining at your restaurant. This includes information like if they are required to wear a mask when not seated and the traffic flow plan to the bathroom. Provide safety and sanitizing products like hand sanitizer and disposable masks upon arrival.

Reinforce with signage

Your signage should include proper guidelines for handwashing and sanitizing, queuing, paying, and traffic flow. Think about messaging that fits your brand, and don’t be afraid to have fun with it! El Arroyo in Texas has made waves with their funny marquee signs about the pandemic. Chicago Bagel Authority sassily calls out “Karens” who refuse to wear masks in their establishment.

Reduced Contact Ordering

Digital Menus

Projecting menu offerings on a screen may not be a fit for every type of concept, but if you run, for example, a counter-service restaurant or sports bar, this approach can be an effective way to reduce the hassle—and contamination potential—of printed menus.

There are various approaches to implementing digital menus in your restaurant:

Smartphones
If your menu is already online, communicate with your customers to use their phones to review, or provide QR codes on table-top signage for your guests to scan that take them to your menu.

TVs
A centrally located TV screen, typically mounted in the window or near the point-of-sale(or both.) This approach works great for fast-casual restaurants where customers expect to order and pay prior to their meals. Find a flatscreen that works with your budget.

Tablets
Tablets that sit either at a counter (like BouncePad and OrderCounter) or on your restaurant’s tables (like Presto or Ziosk) may work better for sports bar/casual dining restaurants where customers expect some semblance of a conventional ordering experience.

Smart Server Buttons
Reduce unnecessary contact by enabling your guests to summon the wait staff when they are ready to order. With a tabletop server button, like the one offered at Tablee, your staff can safely and easily manage tables and service requests.

Online Ordering for In-Person Dining

Having customers order online reduces contact both during ordering and payment. All it requires is an existing pickup and delivery service available. Small Cheval in Chicago, IL has customers order on their website instead of the traditional walk up counter. Check out this guide for more information on contactless payment options.

Keep technology clean between uses

Sanitize all contact surfaces in between each guest and team member, and in accordance with the CDC and your local health department guidelines. Wear gloves and follow the instructions that come with your sanitizer to ensure effectiveness. Check with the manufacturer of your device before applying any cleaner to the devices, screens, or other surfaces, as some cleaning chemicals can damage certain plastics. Another option is to cover any pin pad or similar surface with plastic wrap in order to protect your devices and make cleaning easier.

Keeping six apart

Create a traffic flow plan for your restaurant

In order to promote social distancing, establish a foot traffic plan throughout your restaurant, and reinforce with signage. For example, there should be one route to the kitchen, and a separate route from the kitchen. This will minimize accidental contact, and make it easier for both your staff and customers to move throughout your space while social distancing.

Reinforce six feet apart with signage and physical barriers

While it’s important to verbally communicate your restaurant’s policy with customers, reinforce your social distance policy with signage and physical barriers. Consider adding plexiglass to key areas, like in between the serving counter and the customer, or in between tables. It doesn’t have to be fancy, either. Twisted Citrus in Ohio uses shower curtains to divide dining spaces, while Little Washington in DC uses mannequins at empty tables to create the feeling of a full restaurant.

Get creative with social distancing

Maintaining social distance is crucial to minimizing the spread of COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and on brand. Edmund’s Oast, in Charleston, SC ensures customers keep apart by having employees monitor the dining space from a lifeguard stand. It keeps customers following the rules in a way that fits their beachy brand.

Check out this article from Webdiner for more fun and creative ideas restaurants are employing to keep their customers safe and distant.

Take it outside

Outdoor dining is a safe way to provide a great dining experience for your guests. Many places have expanded or amended their outdoor dining rules due to COVID-19, so check with your local government to make sure you are compliant with dining ordinances. This checklist will help you prepare your restaurant for outdoor dining.

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