By Dan Joyce, General Manager EMEA, SafetyCulture (https://safetyculture.com)
The COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionised the business landscape when it comes to health and safety.We used to think of “high risk industries” being sectors like construction and mining. Now, the travel and hospitality industries are just as “high risk”.
As the hospitality sector has been reopening, businesses have largely been focusing on two priorities: increasing their immunity to risk and winning back customers.With the possibility of further lockdowns still on the horizon, businesses need to remain on top of workplace safety and make sure they are prepared for unexpected closures.
Here are some top tips for hospitality companies to navigate this challenging period.
1) WIN CUSTOMERS BY MAKING SAFETY YOUR EDGE
While it’s always been important to keep customers and guests safe, today safety is more than that: it is a value creator that can attract customers in the same way that great customer service does.
We recently commissioned a YouGov poll which showed that using tangible safety measures could increase customer confidence in returning to pubs and restaurants. Businesses making safety their differentiator and going beyond the legal requirements are already reaping the rewards. For instance, SA Brain – the largest brewer and hospitality company in Wales – planned a series of stringent safety measures for its premises, including temperature checks before the government even released its official guidelines for pubs, and has experienced a very successful reopening.
It can be particularly rewarding when businesses turn safety into an experience for customers. Some restaurants have created plastic domes for customers to dine in, creating a novel and memorable dining experience that makes the best out of the situation. Others have released coveted recipes and meal kits during lockdown so that customers could enjoy their favourite dishes, safely at home.
Using what you already have in your arsenal is important.Thanks to contact tracing, businesses need to record customers’ details.Why not flip this into a positive and use it as a chance to personalise the experi- ence and address your customers by name?
2) EMPOWER YOUR STAFF TO BE YOUR EYES AND EARS ON THE GROUND
Your employees on the ground are best placed to identify safety issues. Now more than ever, businesses need to be asking themselves: are our frontline employees empowered to pick up every incident or concern and do something about it on the spot?
Hospitality companies can improve incident reporting by simplifying safety information and giving their staff access to the right tools. Most workers are already dealing with increased workloads as a result of COVID-19 so it’s a case of not overloading them. Bitesize chunks of information are often much easier to digest than lengthy communica- tions, so introducing short checklists, to be completed regularly, can go a long way in making safety manageable and helping employees to identify problems.
Technology can help with the heavy lifting. Using apps to complete safety checklists and logging track and trace information digitally can help to make potentially time-consuming tasks simpler, and streamline
employees’ workloads. Some hospitality companies have also been mak- ing good use of QR codes, getting their customers to input track and trace details themselves, as well as giving them virtual access to things like menus, instead of handing out physical copies.
Whichever tool or approach you use, it’s crucial to build trust and allow your employees to be accountable for safety too – whether that’s fixing the problem or escalating it to senior staff.A well-informed employee on the front line can make all the difference.
3) PREPARE EARLY FOR UNEXPECTED CLO- SURES
While we’re seeing businesses getting back on their feet, COVID-19 outbreaks have already led to local lockdowns in the UK, which have come at a moment’s notice for some companies. It’s therefore vital that – even when open – organisations remain on high alert.
Think of the current situation as a revolving door.You need to be ready for closing and reopening at short notice to protect business con- tinuity.
There are a few things that hospitality companies can do. Understanding your staff’s personal circumstances is key and will help you to develop effective and realistic contingency plans. Having guidance on closing and re-opening procedures readily available can also help to make everyone accountable for safety measures and speed up the re- opening process. Additional lines of communications are helpful too; if you normally rely on email, for instance, consider texting staff with any major updates.
Again, technology can be a big asset. Using sensors and monitoring data in real time can keep the business on top of any issues or inspection items that have been missed.
In certain situations, closures can’t be helped. But some closures, like those where businesses are short-staffed and have to shut down due to a member of staff contracting COVID-19, can be prevented. Now is not the time to be complacent in the hospitality industry. Businesses need to continue to keep safety on top of the agenda and be ready for change in order to succeed during this period.