Our nation’s small businesses have felt the wrath of the COVID-19 crisis. Many have been forced to shut down permanently, while others are hanging on by a thread. There are definitely outliers to this trend: businesses that provide delivery services, cleaning services, and tech support are thriving in many cases. They offer solutions to needs that have been heightened during this unprecedented time.
If you work in the restaurant industry, no one needs to tell you how catastrophic the pandemic has been for our economy. There were more than 20 million American jobs lost in April of this year, and nearly 8 million of those jobs came from the leisure and hospitality industry. Restaurant owners in particular have been forced to make tough decisions, leaving them with concerns about their future.
“The coronavirus has upended the restaurant industry worldwide with the speed of a lightning strike,” explains Restaurant Business. “Every day brings new information and new recommendations. Complicating matters, multiple authorities are responsible for issuing guidance: the US Centers for Disease Control, the US Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, and others. As a result, keeping up with best practices can be a full-time job in itself.”
It’s likely that even your most loyal customers have been avoiding your restaurant or business due to closures, quarantine-related policies, or fear of contracting the virus. As a result, the first half of 2020 has likely devastated your finances.
The good news is that the nation is slowly reopening for business, but it’s still unclear how the rest of the year will go. In order to set yourself up for success, you must ensure your restaurant or business is compliant with cleaning and disinfecting guidelines. Focus your efforts on the most relevant information and avoid any non-expert opinions you might encounter. For example, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published extensive resources on its website to guide your efforts.
When you take the proper steps to clean and sanitize your business, you’ll be protecting your customers, your staff, and your business interests. There will certainly be effort involved, and the time required can be frustrating. But rushing into reopening or failing to clean your business or restaurant properly once it’s open can bring severe consequences, such as exposing your employees or customers to illness.
“Reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by cleaning and disinfection is an important part of reopening public spaces that will require careful planning,” says the COVID-19 safety information on the CDC’s website. “Every American has been called upon to slow the spread of the virus through social distancing and prevention hygiene, such as frequently washing your hands and wearing face coverings […] The virus that causes COVID-19 can be killed if you use the right products. EPA has compiled a list of disinfectant products that can be used against COVID-19, including ready-to-use sprays, concentrates, and wipes. Each product has been shown to be effective against viruses that are harder to kill than viruses like the one that causes COVID-19.”
Start by targeting the most commonly used hard surfaces in your restaurant or business. These surfaces will obviously vary depending on the nature of your operations, but here’s a list of potential examples:
- Bathroom stalls
- Sink handles
- Door handles
- Cash registers
- Payment terminals
Ideally, these surfaces should be cleaned after each use. If that’s not possible, create a plan that ensures they’re consistently cleaned throughout the day. Use only EPA-registered disinfectants and carefully follow the directions. This means wearing gloves, having proper ventilation, never mixing separate chemicals, and leaving the product on the surface for the optimal amount of time before thoroughly wiping it off.
Soft surfaces such as carpets, rugs, or curtains can be trickier to clean and disinfect. You can use disinfectants that are specialized for these surfaces or simple soap and water. If possible, launder the items to clean them more thoroughly. Use the warmest water the manufacturer’s washing instructions allow, and then make sure they dry completely before returning them to your restaurant. Maintain cleanliness on soft surfaces by vacuuming regularly.
For electronics like remote controls, keyboards, and touch screens, you will need to adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Liquids could easily damage your expensive equipment, so you should ensure that everything is cleaned with precision. When you don’t have instructions for safely cleaning an electronic item, use spray or wipes that contain a minimum of 70% alcohol. Once finished, carefully dry the surface to prevent moisture damage.
Think about installing wipeable covers on your electronics whenever possible. Not only will this make cleaning easier, it also signals to your customers that you are taking practical steps to improve their safety.
You should maintain a regular cleaning schedule if your business or restaurant has outdoor seating. It probably won’t be necessary to use disinfectant—just make sure that outdoor surfaces are cleaned throughout the day and that the area is kept as tidy as possible.
Given the diverse guidelines for health safety, your employees must be trained on the proper use of cleaners and disinfectants. After the initial training, hold additional sessions as needed to ensure your team is confident in how to keep your business or restaurant safe.
It’s also important to ask your employees for their own opinions on how to clean and disinfect the facility. They will often have insights you never could’ve realized on your own. Additionally, when you involve the entire team in the discussion, morale improves—and your people will be more likely to follow through on the protocols. When everyone chips in, the results are always better.