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Considerations to make your restaurant patrons feel safe

As a restaurant operator you know the importance of keeping your establishment clean.  You regularly disinfect surfaces and food-prep areas to avoid contamination and the spread of germs and have hand washing policies in place.  However, with the rise of the novel virus COVID-19 you may be wondering how you can make your patrons feel safe in your establishment. 

Here are 5 simple steps you can take to communicate to your clients that you have their safety, and that of your employees, top of mind.

1. Socially Distancing is an important part of limiting the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses such as flus and colds. Let your customers know how you are helping them maintain at least 6 feet of distance during their Dine-In experience.  Space tables so when chairs are occupied, they have at least 6 feet of distance form the next occupied chair.  This can be accomplished by either removing tables or marking tables as unavailable.  If you are not able to remove a table, place a sign on the table explaining it will not be used.  This will reassure customers that no one will be sat next to them part way through their meal.

2. Promote touch free access. Automatic doors can often be opened by pushing a panel with one’s hip.  If you have this option, promote its use with signage.  If this is not feasible it may be prudent to have an employee act as a greeter and open the door for those entering and leaving.  This will limit how many people touch this otherwise highly shared surface.

Bathrooms are another area with high levels of shared contact surfaces.  Promote ways patrons can avoid contact with surfaces after washing hands. 

a. Place signs near sinks that promote turning off faucets with an elbow, or paper towel.

b. Place signs on doors to promote pushing doors open with hips or using a paper towel in event door needs to be pulled. Place a garbage can outside the bathroom to allow easy disposal of paper towels.

c. Install touch free hand driers or paper towel dispensers. Or put up signs to show how existing hand driers can be used without your hands.

By taking these steps you’ll communicate to customers you understand their concerns and are adapting to meet their needs.

3. Make tables and other surfaces easy to wipe down between patrons. This could include discontinuing the use of table clothes or adding plexiglass to table surfaces for quick disinfecting. This will make customers feel confident they are safe from contaminants left by previous patrons.

4. Table presets should be removed, including condiments like salt & pepper, and ketchup. If a customer requests to have a condiment, consider serving it in a small disposable dish or packets rather than providing the whole bottle. This way there is no concern about who used the bottle last.

5. Menus are another source of shared surfaces between patrons. If you use paper menus, dispose of them after each use or consider having them laminated and wiped down between customers. To limit menu handling, dinner and wine menus could be made available via QR codes sent to the personal devices of guests. QR codes can be placed under a clear surface and when scanned by a smart phone, take patron directly to your menu. You can have different QR codes for different menus such as entrees, drinks, and desserts. 

Whatever steps you take to keep your establishment safe, remember clear and open communication with your patrons is key to making them feel safe.