How do I make sure my restaurant staff is properly sanitizing tables post COVID-19?

In this 5-minute read:

  • Steps for sanitizing restaurant tables and other hard surfaces after COVID-19
  • Communicate with your staff members
  • Keep customers informed

As many businesses across the United States are able to start opening their doors again, most on a limited basis, one major concern is how to continue to flatten the curve by preventing and decreasing new COVID-19 cases. 

Even though they’ve been stuck in their homes and apartments for a couple of months, many people are still going to be wary of going into a restaurant once they are allowed to dine out again. So while it’s vital to maintain and clean and safe environment, it’s just as important to communicate how you are going to do that with your team and customers. 

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As you start seating customers at your restaurant again, you must ensure that your staff takes the usual restaurant sanitizing measures—and any additional requirements due to COVID-19—seriously. All restaurants should have already had good hygiene and cleaning measures in place, but now this is even more critical.  

Steps for properly sanitizing tables post COVID-19

One thing that might have gotten overlooked in some busy restaurants prior to COVID-19 is the proper and regular sanitization of tables, booths, and seating areas. Now is the time to reinforce the proper way to sanitize a table between each seating, and adopt and enforce a tracking system for your employees to record when sanitation has been performed. 

Many states are requiring this as part of their restaurant reopening guidelines. It’s important that your employees don’t take shortcuts here. 

Each restaurant owner may have their own methodology for sanitizing tables, and that’s fine, as long as it’s been shown effective against pathogens and is in compliance with your state health department’s guidelines. We have included below some basic guidelines to help limit the spread of any pathogens on contact with your tables and other surfaces in your restaurant. 

These sanitizing steps come from the CDC:

  • Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
  • Clean surfaces of spills and debris first using soap and water, and then use a disinfectant. The soap and water will reduce the amount of germs and other impurities on the surface, and following up with disinfectant will kill more germs on the surface
  • Follow the instructions on common household disinfectants—these instructions are intended to kill germs, and the solution won’t be as effective if these instructions are not followed (i.e. leaving the solution on the surface for a certain amount of time, don’t dilute beyond the manufacturer’s recommended effective limit, etc.)
  • If you have run out of commercial restaurant-specific disinfectant, a bleach solution can be effective against the coronavirus. Check the label of your bleach product to see if it is intended for disinfection and to make sure it is not past its expiration date. Follow the instructions from the manufacturer for proper dilution, application, and ventilation and never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaners. Leave the solution on the surface for at least 1 minute before wiping it down
  • Places of frequent contact, including tables as restaurants open up, should be cleaned before and after each use. It is important to clean (with soap and water and disinfectant) between each customer—and as noted above, this is likely a requirement for any restaurants reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic

Following these steps will help keep the spread of the virus at bay and will give your staff and customers more peace of mind. 

Communicate with your restaurant staff about sanitizing tables and other surfaces, and record your procedures

Good communication and re-training on certain tasks as your restaurant reopens will be a key factor in getting to stay open. We all need to work together to limit the spread of this disease if we want our businesses to remain open. 

As the owner of a restaurant, it is your responsibility to make sure that your staff is trained on the sanitizing methods that the CDC recommends. 

A great way to do this is to provide some additional training for cleaning tables and other common surfaces. It may seem silly to your staff to receive intense training on cleaning tables, so it’s crucial for you to emphasize why you are doing this and how it is going to help keep your staff, customers, and community safe. 

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Help your staff know how to deal with any impatient customers who don’t understand any additional wait time due to proper sanitation.

Develop and adhere to any state-mandated tracking/recording of sanitizing surfaces, cleaning restrooms, and replenishing hand sanitizer or other preventative supplies.

Inform your customers of the steps your restaurant is taking to keep them safe post COVID-19

Keeping communication open with your customers is going to be critical for your business at this time. With people still very much aware of the virus, many are going to be wary of going out to public spaces. 

You can give your customers peace of mind by telling and showing them how your restaurant is making their safety a priority. 

wait to be seated covid-19

A few ways to do this include:

  • Update your website and social media platforms with the steps your restaurant is taking to ensure sanitization, cleanliness, and appropriate social distancing
  • Place signs up on your doors or at each table that state what your restaurant is doing and guidelines for customers to help in these efforts (like washing their hands before and after eating, covering their mouth when coughing, etc.)
  • Clean and disinfect tables and other surfaces in front of your customers—don’t wait for the restaurant to be empty
  • Have a staff member seat customers at a table that has already been cleaned. Don’t allow customers to seat themselves (and make sure they know this is for their safety)
  • Consider moving to a reservation- or order-ahead model for the first few weeks. This can prevent overcrowding and ensure your staff has adequate time between seatings to sanitize surfaces properly
  • Arrange seating so any airflow from HVAC systems or room fans is not blowing air from one customer seating area directly to another. Some studies have shown that those downwind of an infected person have a greater chance of being infected themselves
  • Rope off or remove any seating necessary to maintain at least 6 feet between parties
  • Limit parties to 6 people or less, and remove extra chairs to discourage sharing/congregating beyond that limit
  • When exchanging paper and coin money, employees should not touch their faces afterward. Ask customers to place cash on the counter rather than directly into your hand. Place any change on the counter, not in customers’ hands. Clean and sanitize the counter after each customer at checkout
  • Infections seem to result from exposure x time, so consider limiting diners’ time at the restaurant to 45 minutes or an hour, or whatever time limit you think appropriate for your type of restaurant experience

For more tips, read our article: Restaurant reopening guidelines after COVID-19

The top priority for any business right now should be to maintain healthy practices that will keep your employees and customers safe. This will keep your employees’ concerns at bay and increase customer satisfaction as they decide to start going out to eat again. 

Get more customers by managing your online reputation

If you are concerned about the number of customers (or lack of) in your restaurant, a key factor in this is to make sure your business is represented well online. A consistent supply of online reviews from your customers is the sign of a well-liked and well-attended restaurant.

Womply has reputation management software that will allow you to easily send reminders to your customers that you appreciate their online feedback. You can easily read and manage all your online reviews for all the popular platforms in one place, with one login. 

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