No one wants to be responsible for someone’s death. At the same time the community needs to be served, providing the products they need, while providing jobs to keep the economy sustained and businesses open. We therefore need to take appropriate steps to ensure everyone around us is safe, and ensuring the survivability of our businesses.
To protect staff is essential, because if one staff member gets infected there’s a chance the entire staff will be infected. Therefore strict measures should be put into place to ensure the business can stay open.
Understand that if your staff becomes infected you will have to close your store, and, you will lose the trust of the community.
These are some of the steps you and your business should take, geared towards Grocery Stores and other food services.
- All staff should have their temperature taken before they enter the business, and if necessary sent home if they have a fever. They should remain home for 3 weeks unless a test says they are free of the virus. As the owner you must do all you can to prevent your entire workforce from becoming infected.
- All staff must wear gloves (disinfected every 20 minutes throughout the day) and masks. Be creative and make masks that have the store logo and/or name. Hand them out to customers for promotion and to let the community know you are open.
- Staff should not congregate or get close to other staff. 10 feet is the minimum separation as six feet doesn’t guarantee that two people who chat won’t infect one another.
- Recirculated air (air conditioning) could potentially be an issue as it could spread the virus throughout a store. Therefore try to incorporate fresh outdoor air whenever possible.
- Any staff that doesn’t wear a mask and gloves should be laid off for a time until the worker complies, to protect the business and the jobs of other staff. Make sure they understand this, no exemptions.
- Delivery workers who deliver produce, etc. to the store must wear masks and gloves. Threaten to find another company if they do not comply. Keeping your store free of the virus and keeping the public’s trust is key to staying in business. This starts at the loading dock.
- Stocking of shelves should happen during off hours to avoid any interaction with customers shopping.
- Update Apr. 29, 2020: If cashiers handle merchandise, credit cards or money that was touched by a customer, they should disinfect their hands before serving the next customer. We encourage in the next section that you avoid all physical interaction between cashier and customer, including bagging, scanning items, touching any transaction, weighing food (let the customer put the container on the scale), etc.
- Have a sign explaining how washing hands kills the Coronavirus, by removing the oily shell of the virus which holds it together. Encourage washing hands often, especially after touching something questionable like a door knob.
- Update Apr. 29, 2020: Delivery people should not handle food, like cooking, making sandwiches, etc. They are interacting with customers directly and shouldn’t then interact with food.
- Encourage staff to continue their protective measures when leaving work, in order to not become infected and impact the business. Ask them if they need extra masks, gloves or have a situation they need help with. Discourage BBQ’s, parties or any social gatherings. Remind them that their health will determine if this business remains open.
- Put up signs in staff areas to encourage good behavior and compliance. Offer incentives.
INTERFACE BETWEEN STAFF AND CUSTOMERS: There should be a separation between staff and customers at all times.
- Provide plexiglass dividers at deli, checkout counters, etc. to prevent air flow and particles (from sneezing) to travel towards staff. These can be suspended from the ceiling using 1/8” thick plexiglass. Clear shower curtains could also be used in other areas like behind a cashier, as they can easily be trimmed to size and already have holes for suspension.
- A table, rope or other device should be put between the customer and the checkout cashier, to increase the distance between the two. A card reader can be placed on the table.
- Store hours should be extended, to allow customers to spread out over time.
- Staff should be reduced by 50% so that it can alternate during different shifts and retain their livelihood. This would result in fewer workers in the store at one time, but will help keep half the staff healthy if the other half becomes infected or has to be quarantined.
- All surfaces that are typically touched should be disinfected several times a day. Door knobs, light switches, checkout lines, baskets and shopping carts.
- Doors, during warm weather should be left open so customers do not touch handles and potentially spread the virus from one customer to another. If you have a vestibule, open one set of doors if the weather is too cold or hot. Consider installing automatic doors.
- If you accept cash ask customers if they want their change. A percentage won’t want it in order to not handle potentially contaminated currency. The store should also consider giving ‘extra change’ and round off to the nearest dollar even if this means giving the customer more change than they are due, to prevent spread of the virus and to speed up the exit of the customer from the store. Remember, a small lose in profits is better than having to close the store.
- Sell protective equipment and sanitizer both at the door and at checkout. Offer it at good prices to encourage their use and replacement.
- Signs should be posted: “No Mask = No Entry”. No customer should be allowed into a store without protective gear.
- The number of customers should be limited inside the store, one per aisle on average. Only one person per family/group should enter.
- Customers should be encouraged to order and have their groceries delivered (provide delivery services). Allow customers to write out a list, photograph it, along with the name/address/phone number, and text it to the store, to place an order. You can provide ‘pick up’ service, or delivery service. This would drastically reduce the time a customer is inside your store.
- If a line forms, encourage customers to come back when the store is less full, by giving them a reservation and then making sure they’re at the front of the line if they show up at the time given.
- Provide Hand Sanitizer stands at the entrance to your store, to encourage customers to clean their hands before entering.
- Customers should bag their own groceries. Staff should only provide a bag but not open or handle it in any significant way. Staff should never touch groceries that have been touched by customers, to keep their gloves clean, to prevent spreading the virus to other customer’s items. Use a handheld scanning device to scan merchandise held by the customer.
- Provide a touchless payment system, where debit or credit cards can be used and the customer doesn’t have to touch a keypad.
- Discourage talking or congregating inside. Suggest they take their conversation outdoors in the fresh air.
- Encourage customers to bring a shopping list, to help shopping go faster allowing you to serve more customers.
- Update Apr. 29, 2020: Customers should prefer pre-packaged food items versus deli made or buffet style food service as it is presumed to be safer.
- Update Apr. 29, 2020: Customers should leave canned goods, etc. untouched for a few days after bringing them home.
- Update Apr. 29, 2020: After bring bags home that were touched by a store employee, they should remove the bag or ‘quarantine it for a few days’, and then wash their hands before touching anything else.
- Update Apr. 29, 2020: Essentially, there should be no interaction between staff and customers. If there is, find a way to serve customers safely or eliminate interaction. If you’re a customer, use hand sanitizer immediately after if your items were handled by someone else.
- Make sure you have a large sign that says ‘Open’ and have the days/hours printed on it.
- Make a sign that tells customers the steps you are taking, to reassure your customers allowing them to trust their health within your establishment.
- Thank customers for their patience.
- As mentioned, provide masks with your logo/name on it, to promote safety and your open business. This shows the community you are engaged with their safety.
BE REALISTIC ABOUT THIS PANDEMIC:
This is a long term pandemic before a vaccine will become available. You therefore have to think about keeping your business safe for many months, potentially as long as a year. Understand that if you discover your community has 500 confirmed cases, that this probably represents the number of extreme cases that showed up at a hospital, and that the actual number of infected in your area is probably 10 times higher or 5000 people, as studies are now showing. You have to assume that every person your staff comes into contact with could be infected and contagious.
Understand that in the short term you may lose some profit, but if you take these steps you will remain in business and serve the community well into the future. Failure to do so might result in temporary or permanent closing, and potential loss of trust within the community.
Please provide any other ideas you might have. Distribute, share and stay safe.
Author: Nic Buccalo, Original Mid-April, 2020.
Protecting your Food Service Business in the age of Coronavirus: http://SimpleTwig.com/blog