March 2020 felt more like its own year than a month. If you had been asked on the last day of February what March would hold, I would bet good money it wasn’t what we’ve all been through in the past few weeks. With the upending of our world and the restaurant industry dramatically impacted, we should prepare ourselves for what’s next, because it won’t look like where we’ve been.
The main ingredient of a thriving, growing economy is trust. And, though you did nothing to lose it, the restaurant industry will need to do everything in its power to regain it with consumers.
The world has changed, and so have the expectations that people will have when they enter your place of business. Here are a few things you can do to get ready for this new normal:
1. Cleanliness is next to Godliness – in the year 2020 that is a truism we can’t escape. Having a sparkling clean space takes the concern of what’s lurking on your surfaces off the table. People need to see the cleaning happening. If they can’t, leave a note on prepped tables akin to the ones you find in a cleaned hotel room. Have the person who cleaned the table sign it.
2. Sanitizing Tools – At one time or another, everyone was likely told to wash their hands before eating, but somehow, that one slipped off our radar. Not anymore. Foaming sanitizers, wash up sinks, little wipes in packets – visitors will need something available to prepare for touching their food.
3. Get rid of door handle use wherever possible. Those auto-opening grocery store doors mean you don’t have to share a handle with four thousand other people, and who knows what they have touched. For the foreseeable future, having a door opener on duty may be the best welcome you could offer.
4. Your employees may need fresh pressed shirts and aprons. In the same way the crispness of the airline pilot’s uniform gives you the confidence to get on the plane, a look can be very powerful. It might be as simple as a new shirt and clean ball cap to give your team the fresh look it needs. How your frontline shows up will say more to the customers in the first few months than pricing, or promos. You may even want to get custom face masks.
5. Anything communal should be suspended. Salt and Pepper shakers, ketchup bottles, salsa ladles, salad tongs, kiosks and point-of-sale screens. We have all become hyper-sensitive to who has touched anything before us. For the time being, consider packets of sauces and seasonings on the tables and behind-the-counter salad bars. People will exchange convenience for safety.
The restaurant industry is one of the most dynamic, adapting, and creative places to work. There has always been pressure on all sides to improve, re-invent, stay ahead.
This new challenge is a huge opportunity to demonstrate the resiliency of foodservice in America.
Together, we will all come back stronger, more united, capable, and full of employees who are more thankful than ever for the chance to work and grow. Let’s get to it.