As restaurant dining rooms begin to open back up, so will convenience store foodservice programs, which were largely halted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As stores begin offering their full selection of foodservice items, including made-to-order foods, roller grill snacks and more, retailers will need to pay close attention to ensure complete safety. Consumers may still be wary about dining out, and for retailers to earn their confidence, it will be key to implement some new equipment designed to keep foodservice safe and healthy, as well as call for staff to follow personal safety guidelines as well. Here are a few ways retailers can ensure they’re offering a safe and healthy environment to foodservice patrons.
1) Encourage or require personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks
The FDA has released a list of best practices for reopening retail foodservice establishments, and those guidelines include tips for ensuring employee health, such as following CDC guidance for health checks and screenings as well as supplying workers with equipment including masks, gloves and more. By offering employees protective gear, retailers lessen the risk for workers, but for optimal protection, retailers can consider requiring face covers, for instance, in their stores.
2) Install air curtains, sneeze guards and other protective equipment
Another way to keep foodservice safe is by installing equipment that fosters a safe environment. For example, sneeze guards and air curtains like The AirShield from FoodSignPros are a perfect solution. Sneeze guards are installed at food preparation stations to lessen the transmission of germs between staff and customers, and air curtains work by using forced air to blow any contaminants away from the foodservice area. For example, air curtain hoods installed over a roller grill setup ensure that outside air stays away from the uncovered food on the grill. Installing equipment such as this helps reduce the spread of airborne germs and bacteria, making foodservice as a whole safer—pandemic or not.
3) Implement rigid sanitation procedures and hold workers accountable
Finally, retailers should update their sanitation procedure schedules so that high-touch areas and equipment are cleaned and disinfected more frequently. These procedures should include wiping down doorknobs/handles, check-out counters, order kiosks and more. Garbage cans should also be emptied more regularly, as there may be more single-use articles (plastic wrap, gloves, plastic utensils, etc.) being discarded in a post-pandemic world.
Once a schedule has been agreed upon, retailers should not only post the schedule in visible places within the store (where employees and customers alike can see), but also hold staffers accountable—make sure there is oversight to ensure tasks are being completed, not just signed off on.
To learn more about food safety procedures as c-stores open back up and to find out more about equipment such as air curtains and sneeze guards, visit www.foodsignpros.com.
4) Utilize marketing and merchandising to boost perceived food safety in the eyes of the public
The first three steps above focused on improving real food safety. Unfortunately, food safety, alone, will be insufficient to excel in the aftermath of COVID-19. This is because the objective,safety of food is only secondarily important in terms of consumer confidence and revenue. The more important factor is the subjective, perceived safety of your food in the eyes of your customers. Customers will not consume food if they do not perceive it to be sufficiently safe, even if it is the safest food available. In-store merchandising is the best way to improve perceived food safety. It creates a compounding effect between real food safety, on one hand, and perceived food safety, on the other. Consider FoodSignPros’ patented self-closing PanLids. Placing pan lids over otherwise uncovered food physically blocks pathogens from contacting the food within. Placing merchandising onto those pan lids, such as COVID themed graphics and messaging, reminds your customers how much you care about their health and safety. Which improves perceived food safety. Pairing food safety equipment with in-store merchandising like this creates a positive-feedback loop that leaves a lasting impression on your customers.
This post is sponsored by FoodSignPros.com