3 Tips For a Safer Retailer & Restaurant Return

— By Jude Charles —


Retailers and restaurants all around the country are slowly considering the prospect of reopening their doors as federal, state and local restrictions begin to relax. While welcoming customers and employees back to your business should be met with excitement, it’s important to consider the risks associated with gradually increasing in-person operations.

Jude Charles, Sentry Insurance

If your retail store or restaurant is like many others who temporarily paused operations or reduced staff, consider the following ideas for a safer, more successful return to work.

Manage Onsite Visitors
Due to the nature of retail and food service, your business has the added challenge of accounting for vendors, delivery drivers and other onsite visitors in addition to your many customers and employees. While each business partner assists your organization in some capacity, consider mapping out which onsite visitors are most essential, and which partners could reduce their frequency of onsite visits.

A short survey can be an effective way to ensure you have the necessary information to make an informed decision before conducting business at your facility. Ask potential onsite visitors to answer questions regarding whether they’ve been in contact with anyone who tested positive for COVID-19, if they’ve felt any unusual symptoms, and where they’ve conducted personal or professional travel in the past two weeks.

The answers to these questions can help your business make a case-by-case decision with everyone’s health and safety in mind.

Prioritize Hygiene
As your business prepares to open its doors, evaluate how you can improve hygiene measures within your facility. The CDC and OSHA maintain a list of the latest sanitation and hygiene resources, which you should monitor as your business moves forward with in-person business. Restaurants in particular can also take part in free COVID-19 training and view resources through the National Restaurant Association.

Since most retailers and restaurants focused on maximizing customer interactions and traffic in the past, explore the following hygiene practices:

• Conduct a safety meeting with employees to discuss your businesses hygiene expectations, process for reporting symptoms and a no-contact method for greeting customers.
• Remind employees to follow social distancing guidelines and frequently wash their hands for at least 20 seconds.
• Explore new ways to space out high-traffic areas within your facility and place hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol in those areas.
• Distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) for both employees and customers.
• Stagger employee shifts to help them readjust to regular work duties while monitoring their health and hygiene practices.

Define an Objective Reintroduction Strategy
If your business temporarily reduced its staff in recent months, you may plan to reintroduce employees in phases. While this strategy is likely well-intended, it requires a detailed plan to reduce the likelihood of discrimination allegations.

Consult a member of your human resources team or an employee attorney to help identify these potential risks. Criteria should be well-defined and focus exclusively on skills and experiences essential to your retail or restaurant operations. Once your plan is finalized and documented, communicate the key takeaways to employees, while avoiding specific ratings. Finally, offer to answer any questions or concerns prior to a full reintroduction. Clarity and transparency will show employees you care, while reducing potential misperceptions. Further resources regarding employment non-discrimination can also be found on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website.

Families and communities around the country have been waiting in anticipation to visit retailers and restaurants just like yours. By considering the following tips and prioritizing the safety of your visitors, your business can get back to welcoming friendly faces in your facility with more peace of mind.

— Jude Charles is a safety consultant for Sentry Insurance, which provides insurance, retirement and risk management solutions for businesses. Email him at Jude.Charles@sentry.com.


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