Best practices for creating, and then adapting worker guidelines
During this time, it is going to take strong leadership and partners to work with staff, as wearing gloves and masks all day and working behind glass is very different than what their previous normal looked like,” says Michele DiMeo, founder and CEO of Squisito Pizza & Pasta, a fast casual Italian franchise with 10 locations throughout Maryland and Virginia. The restaurant chain paused dining room seating during COVID-19 but continued with carryout and delivery services until in-dining options reopened.
With all the changes, especially surrounding health and safety protocols, keeping staff up to date on guidelines isn’t as simple as writing up a new list of rules. “Just forwarding the operational guide is not really going to be effective, as we need to create a new normal,” DiMeo says. “We need to make sure we are keeping staff as well as our guests healthy.”
And while setting up and implementing worker safety protocol is essential, the changing environment means that guidelines might fluctuate from week to week or month to month. To be prepared to adjust, staff at Mr. Moto Pizza in San Diego monitored the news daily as COVID-19 first broke out. “By the time it hit California, we were monitoring almost by the hour,” says Jorge Moreno, the head of Mr. Moto Pizza Marketing. The careful attention helped the restaurant get ready to shift to the different government-directed requirements. “Once the guidelines were set, we were able to adapt,” Moreno says.
As COVID-19 continues to impact regions and industries, there are several ways to make sure employees follow the latest guidelines. In addition, steps can be taken to make sure that everyone in the restaurant, from employees to the customers, feel comfortable. Follow these best practices to keep staff and customers safe and well in today’s shifting world.
Provide Timely Updates
Rewriting an employee handbook every two weeks to reflect the latest guidelines isn’t usually a practical strategy. Instead, consider creating a supplemental memo listing the most recent COVID-required procedures. Incorporate input from the CDC along with local ordinances. “With any type of policy or manual, it’s always important to distribute it and have a receipt to show it was received,” says Scott M. Behren, Esq., an attorney and owner of Behren Law Firm, which focuses on commercial litigation and employment law, in Weston, Florida.
These quick add-ons could address key issues such as how shifts might change, especially if you have a prep crew come in during morning hours and a service crew inhouse during the afternoon and evening hours. The memos could also outline mask, face shield and glove requirements. Be sure to note if the PPE listed will be provided by the restaurant or if employees will need to get it themselves. For situations in which workers will provide their own PPE, lay out guidelines for the equipment.
“We keep introducing weekly updates, trying to stay on top of the ever-changing environment,” DiMeo says. “From temperatures and health checks to daily logs, adding plexiglass shields at every counter, and soon-to-be new POS temperature check clock-ins, we are doing everything that we can to stay on top of keeping staff, as well as guests, healthy.”
Take Steps for Accountability
It can be helpful to talk to staff to make sure they understand both the “what” and “why” surrounding new guidelines. Holding a quick meeting or checking in with staff on an individual basis can allow you to gauge their reactions. When staff at Mr. Moto Pizza had to adapt quickly, “everyone was onboard and prepared for the ride,” Moreno says.
Besides listing what needs to be done, it can be effective to include what measures will be taken if employees don’t comply with the new rules. When updating employee guidelines, “put in repercussions,” Behren says. For instance, if staff members are required to wear a face mask, list the consequences that will occur if an employee doesn’t wear one.
Giving managers and supervising staff members tools to monitor the new guidelines can help ensure follow through. “We have daily logs for them to complete, which include temperature checks when employees come into the stores for work, including after their breaks, as circumstances could change throughout the day,” DiMeo says.
Don’t Change Customer Service Policies
Just as customers will notice changes like gloved hands or covered mouths, they will also pay attention to how they are treated. “My philosophy is that you want to provide the same level of service that you would in every environment,” says Michael Liebowitz, owner of NoNo’s Pizzeria & Bar by Frankie in Miami Beach. “You want everyone to be happy.”
The restaurant, which started with just takeout and delivery, opened in June 2020. From day one, staff members were trained to wear PPE, wash hands throughout their shift, and consistently wipes down surfaces. And while employees need to follow safety measures, customers are welcome to ask for flexibility when it comes to the menu. “Not everyone’s taste is the same,” Liebowitz says. If a customer asks for a pizza with more cheese or a thinner crust, employees oblige the request. “We’ll do it however someone wants it,” Liebowitz adds.
Even if the atmosphere looks different, customers are likely to appreciate the extra steps taken to promote safety. And the health measures can even help take customer service to another level by forging bonds in the community. “Our relationship with our customers is of utmost importance,” Moreno says. “We’ve been supporting our neighborhood schools and running weekly giveaways on our social media pages, and it is great seeing how they are supporting Mr. Moto through these difficult times.”
Ensuring top-notch health and safety for both employees and customers can help set your restaurant apart from the rest. Taking steps to reduce the spread of germs and promote cleanliness could even boost your brand, as clients become more health-driven in their choices. “I think it’s a great thing,” Liebowitz says. “A lot of this has been long awaited.”
Rachel Hartman is a freelance writer who covers small business, finance and lifestyle topics.