What can restaurants really do to get customers back in the COVID-19 era? Only 18% of U.S adults said they’d be comfortable dining in when restaurants first started to reopen (according to research conducted by Morning Consult in the spring of 2020), and continued uncertainty may keep others away for some time to come. Restauranteurs not satisfied to simply wait need to take urgent action to make customers more comfortable now – and it starts with taking handwashing to a whole new level.
Here are four ways you can step up your handwashing game to win more customers back.
One: Retrain, remind, repeat
By now, most people have heard that hands need to be washed for thirty seconds after using the restroom. But do your employees recognize all of the other “before and after” occasions that require handwashing? Do they wash their hands before starting work or handling food, after touching clothes or hair, or even just routinely, once an hour, to make up for all the other times they may have missed in the rush of restaurant work? (The infographic here gives you a more complete list.)
And do they appreciate that effective handwashing requires more than just rubbing hands back and forth with soap and water? Do they know to start by rinsing dirt off with warm water, adding soap to form a lather with their palms, then proceeding to rub the backs of their hands, the tips of their fingers and even their wrists? Teaching and consistently reinforcing proper handwashing is critical – and that must include the correct way to dry hands, too.
Take the time to have formal training sessions – training aids are available and often include posters that can easily remind workers of effective handwashing procedure, and the proper way to use hand sanitizer.
Two: Make overall hygiene easier for employees with better dispenser placement
When it comes to hygiene, compliance and convenience quite literally go hand in hand.
Your workers will be more likely to maintain proper hygiene if dispensers are placed within easy reach – for instance, throughout the kitchen:
- By the handwashing sink: You should have sink dedicated just to handwashing, which should have its own soap and paper towel dispensers.
- By workstations: Portable dispensers (whether for hand sanitizer or wipes) are a good way to maintain hygiene in these crowded spaces.
- At the kitchen exit: Help wait staff keep clean-ups quick by placing paper towel dispensers near the exits.
And don’t forget the waste bins, which should be kept within easy reach of all kitchen workers, to prevent cross-contamination from used paper hand towels and wipers.
Three: Put your hygiene solutions front and center for customers
Improving hygiene is just the first step – you also have to make that improvement clear to your customers. Dispenser placement is a big help here, too, as hand sanitizers at entrances and plentiful supplies in restrooms make it obvious to patrons that you are committed to providing a healthy environment. You should even consider placing sanitizer dispensers just outside the kitchen door, facing the front of the house, so that customers see employees putting them to use.
Educating consumers on your approach to healthy hygiene can actually improve their dining experience, by boosting their confidence and comfort. Simple touches, like table-topper signage or messages on custom-printed napkins, can help dine-in customers relax and even encourage them to come back.
Four: Use employee-friendly products to increase employee compliance
Washing your hands often can also be rough on them. Your employees are more likely to get with the program and stick with it if you provide quality products. Look for moisturizing soaps, soft-enough paper towels, and hand sanitizers that don’t leave skin too dry.
Effective handwashing has always been an issue for the restaurant industry, but never more so than as restaurants reopen and recover. That’s why we have developed helpful resources – such as the Safe at Work: COVID-19 Foodservice Toolkit – all designed to make the return to business quicker, easier, and safer for everyone.
Restaurant Business: In Polls, Americans Appear Reticent About Restaurants Reopening
NRA: National Restaurant Association issue guide for restaurants ready to reopen
Essity: Safe at Work: COVID-19 Foodservice Toolkit