— By A.J. Dilenno —
The importance of your parking lot during and after COVID-19.
COVID-19 may have put dining out on hiatus in many areas, but that doesn’t mean customers have abandoned their favorite restaurants. To meet customer demand while practicing social distancing, many retail stores and restaurants have turned to curbside pickup and drive-thru, with some stores delivering groceries right to people’s cars. In fact, demand for alternative dining and delivery options have made the parking lot the go-to area for many businesses. For other establishments, weeks of shutdowns have left parking lots in need of some TLC. Whether you’re scrambling to fill curbside orders or preparing to reopen for dine-in service, now is an opportune time to spruce up your parking lot and impress your customers.
While many Americans want life to get back to “normal” as soon as possible, the changes introduced by COVID-19 may be here to stay. Many customers have come to appreciate the convenience of curbside delivery, prompting business owners to install permanent spots for pickup and drop-off. Meanwhile, convenience stores, coffee shops and other retail outlets are joining the ranks of fast food restaurants by adding a permanent drive-thru to their offerings.
The Details Matter
The addition of new pickup and delivery options will require business owners to revamp their parking lots and with a COVID-19 vaccine still months away, parking lot redesigns must factor in the safety of employees and customers. Businesses that offer drive-thru may need to install plexiglass to protect workers and drivers and add additional parking lanes to accommodate increased traffic. Establishments that offer curbside pickup will need signs to re-route cars and walk-in diners, indicate social distancing requirements, and ensure that people wear masks in curbside entryways and reopened dining areas.
As parking lots become the designated place for picking up orders, your business’s curb appeal could become the deciding factor in attracting and retaining customers. Parking lots are often the first thing people see when they visit your establishment, so presenting an inviting, professional appearance is critical, but keeping parking lots in prime condition can be a challenge. Over time, gum, grime and other debris accumulate, and signs and line-striping fade, giving your business a run-down look. Routine maintenance can work wonders in restoring neglected parking lots to a pristine appearance and optimal functioning. For example, line-striping and parking signs eliminate confusion over where to park and clearly identify which spots are reserved for disabled patrons, while sweeping and power washing get rid of graffiti and other forms of vandalism.
Businesses also need to stay on top of trash to keep their parking lots in good condition. Accumulated garbage can attract a host of pests such as insects, rodents and stray cats and dogs that like to feast on residual debris. Installing trash receptacles in your parking lot and ensuring that they are emptied on a regular basis prevents unsightly garbage from piling up and becoming a health hazard.
Keep it Safe and Beautiful
Keeping a well-maintained parking lot is more than a sanitation issue; it’s a safety issue as well. With each passing season, concrete and asphalt parking lots become cracked and filled with potholes, especially in areas with heavy snowfall, dramatic shifts in temperature or a lot of traffic. Wear and tear can also lead to blocked drainage systems that turn your parking lot into a sea of standing water. Fixing cracks and potholes not only enhances the curb appeal of your parking lot, it also prevents damage to cars and stops people from tripping and falling. Providing adequate lighting, particularly at night, is another important step you can take to make customers feel safe. A well-lit, well-maintained parking lot will also protect your business from personal injury lawsuits and municipal fines associated with neglect.
The placement of attractive signage and lines for curbside pickup has increased in importance during this time. Additionally, ensure you have the services needed to trim grass, mulch flower beds and swap out plants to keep your landscaping evergreen and eye appealing.
For busy retail stores and restaurants, improving the visibility, safety and appearance of parking lots may require a sizable investment of time and effort. Engaging a third party to manage maintenance services for your parking lot can alleviate much of this burden, providing boots on the ground assistance with concrete and asphalt repairs, as well as removing graffiti and other forms of vandalism. Having a one-stop shop that provides landscaping, power-washing and waste management in addition to line-striping and sealcoating will ensure that your parking lot is in impeccable shape and give you time for the most important detail: ensuring a positive customer experience.
Whether you are preparing to reopen for business or continuing to implement social distancing measures, your parking lot can become one of your biggest assets for attracting customers. A well-maintained, attractive lot shows your customers that you make their safety and convenience a priority and allows you to meet any challenges with your best foot forward.
— A.J. Dilenno is senior director of procurement at RWS Facility Services. He is responsible for managing over 5,000 vendor partners throughout North America, delivering on-time facility services through the RWS One Call, One Team approach. Dilenno has more than 10 years of experience in the facility management industry. For more information, visit www.rwsfacilityservices.com.