The COVID-19 pandemic has caused just about everybody to become hyperaware of cleanliness, and restaurant-goers are no exception.
Amid shelter-in-place orders in some states and consumers choosing to stay home in others, takeout and delivery services have been many operators’ saving grace. And, just as operators have implemented new strategies to meet consumer needs for an at-home dining option, they will again need to pivot to create a safe, comfortable dine-in experience for customers—and a sanitary work environment for employees—as more and more states and municipalities relax dine-in restrictions.
According to Technomic’s May 2020 State of the Industry report for the foodservice industry, operators in most states are offering dine-in services as of May 15, albeit with precautionary measures such as limited capacities, outdoor-only seating or social distancing practices. These strategies largely fall in line with the National Restaurant Association’s coronavirus-specific guidelines for operation reopening, in which food safety, cleaning and sanitizing, employee health monitoring and personal hygiene and social distancing are the focus.
If consumers are to consider dining in, efforts such as these are important—and will be top of mind for many. According to Technomic, 50% of consumers say that, in order to feel comfortable dining in at a restaurant, tables would need to be spaced 6 feet apart. Twenty-seven percent of consumers called for 9 feet of distance or more.
In addition, customers indicate that dining room cleanliness is a must. Frequently sanitizing customer touch points, such as door handles and laminated menus, as well as providing hand sanitizer for customers to use and requiring waitstaff to wear masks and gloves can be helpful practices.
Communication is key here, too: Customers want to know that an operator is taking precautions. This can involve making safety a focus in marketing to prospective diners, posting signs at the restaurant entrance notifying sick customers not to enter or displaying the operation’s sanitation schedule where diners can see it.
And, aside from employing best practices in dining areas themselves, many diners will want to know that cleanliness and safety is made a back-of-house priority, too.
The importance of employee health and safety is twofold: not only is it a top concern for customers, but it is also crucial to keeping restaurants running like a well-oiled machine.
Training all employees to follow CDC guidelines for safety and sanitation is, of course, recommended. Masks and gloves are not just reserved for front-of-house employees: They can also be a helpful measure for kitchen staff to protect themselves and the customers they serve. Employee temperature checks may be a helpful precaution, too. And now, more than ever, equipping kitchens with up-to-date technology that saves time and labor can be a gamechanger for keeping employees safe and back-of-house operations efficient.
Managing fryer oil and grease buildup, for example, can be particularly difficult tasks. Not only can it be messy, time-consuming and hazardous—finding a way to safely and efficiently store, handle and recycle cooking oil while keeping the kitchen spotless can make for a challenging roadblock as operators raise their standards for cleanliness in the kitchen.
Restaurant Technologies provides an array of solutions to help employees spend less time cleaning grease splatter buildup and tending to fryer oil and more time keeping their kitchens and customers safe. Total Oil Management from Restaurant Technologies handles the entire oil process with a closed loop system and automatic controls so that operators—and their employees—can check it off their to-do lists for good. With portable cooking oil shuttle systems that make disposal safe and easy and filtration systems to keep oil clean and food tasting great, operators can rest easy knowing that one of the most laborious kitchen tasks is taken care of and focus, instead, on providing a safe, comfortable dining experience that will keep customers coming back.
To learn more about how Restaurant Technologies can help operators simplify kitchen cleanliness as they navigate the process of reopening, visit rti-inc.com.
Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.