Restaurant Reopening: Alleviating Fear

May 27, 2020

After a nearly two-month nationwide lockdown, the US economy is finally starting to open up. As of today, all 50 states are at least partially open. If you stepped outside this recent Memorial Day weekend or watched internet footage of celebrations, you would think that people forgot that a pandemic even exists–throngs gathered in public places, many ignoring social distancing and facial covering guidelines. The fact of the matter is, no matter how eager people are for things to get back to normal, things are still not normal. COVID-19 has claimed the lives of over 100,000 people in the United States and according to the World Health Organization Program Director Dr. Mark Ryan, “We’re still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up.”

Let’s take a look at some timely statistics to get a better understanding of where things stand. Surveys from McKinsey & Company reveal that 80 percent of American consumers who have not yet returned to out-of-home activities are “are largely waiting for medical authorities to voice their approval, safety measures to be put in place, and a vaccine to be developed.”  Datassential reports that 57 percent of people are more concerned about a public-health crisis over 43 percent who are more concerned about an economic crisis.

Additionally, consumer confidence is lower than it was in early March as shown from a recent study from Morning Consult. Further, businesses have strict safety mandates to follow in each state and county where they operate. Complying with proper health protocols is top of mind for consumers and businesses alike. This coupled with the fact that many are feeling a negative financial impact from COVID proves that businesses, particularly restaurants, need to establish real value and differentiate themselves from the competition.

It’s not just the consumers–workers are fearful, too. A survey of 1,000 American workers conducted by PwC illuminated many concerns about returning to work. 56 percent stated they would prefer that their employers provide them with personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks. 51 percent wanted customers to be required to follow safety and hygiene practices.

A man prepares for a food delivery trip during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what restaurant owners need to do to assuage the valid concerns that both their employes and guests have during this crisis:

  • Follow mandates as outlined by your local and state governments: this may vary among states but would usually include reducing dine-in capacity, strict sanitation protocols, following social distancing (for ever one in the establishment), establish a maximum amount of guests per table, and restrictions on bar service.
  • PPE for your employees. Invest in personal protective equipment for your employees. This includes facial coverings, disposable gloves, hand sanitizer, and sneeze guards.
  • Establish work guidelines. Create a plan for how to deal with employees who feel they may have contracted COVID, or whether or not they have concerns about their personal safety. Share these guidelines with employees so they understand you have procedures in place to handle their concerns.
  • Commitment of Safety: post on your website a statement on how you are following guidelines that ensure the safety of both patrons and employees. Make it clear that their health if your priority.
  • Use social media. Utilize social media to illustrate that your restaurant following proper safety guidelines and procedures. Remind them that you are still offering multiple options for ordering–curbside pickup, takeout, contact-less delivery and drive-thru.

If you have questions about how to strategically reopen during this difficult time, Synergy is here to assist. Please contact us with your concerns about navigating this new environment.