Reassuring Customers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

At the same time as restaurants are facing forced closures and unexpected pivots to takeout and delivery, many of their customers are hesitant to order curbside or delivered food. Varying information about how COVID-19 is spread and what constitutes the riskiest behaviors has further decreased restaurant sales. What can you do to assure customers that you are taking every precaution to keep them safe?

Cite Official Sources

Give customers an official source to turn to for answers. No matter how much they love your restaurant, without a government source, many will still doubt whether it’s okay.

You can refer them to the FDA Q&A about food and COVID-19 to help put them at ease about the safety of prepared food vs groceries.

The FDA says:

Q: Can I get COVID-19 from a food worker handling my food?

A: Currently, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. However, the virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person in some communities in the U.S. The CDC recommends that if you are sick, stay home until you are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.

Anyone handling, preparing and serving food should always follow safe food handling procedures, such as washing hands and surfaces often.

Q: Can I get the coronavirus from food, food packaging, or food containers and preparation area?

A: Currently there is no evidence of food, food containers, or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.  Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects. For that reason, it is critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill.

If you are concerned about contamination of food or food packaging, wash your hands after handling food packaging, after removing food from the packaging, before you prepare food for eating and before you eat. Consumers can follow CDC guidelines on frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; and frequent cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces.

Q: Since restaurant workers and other service industry employees have ongoing contact with the public, are there any special precautions these workers should take to avoid becoming sick with a respiratory illness, such as wearing masks?

A: CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.… CDC recommends everyday preventive actions for everyone, including service industry workers and customers.

Detail Cleaning and Food Safety Procedures

Let your customers know exactly what you are doing to keep them and your employees safe. Many people don’t understand how careful restaurants are all the time about handwashing, food handling and sanitation. Let them know what your standard procedures are, then let them know what additional precautions you are taking, such as:

  • Cleaning your POS between each customer
  • Cleaning all handles and surfaces every 30 minutes
  • Customers arriving for take out must call from their cars and have food brought to them
  • Mandating more frequent handwashing for employees
  • Taking pre-payment online, so you don’t have to run your card

Knowing exactly what steps you are taking to protect health lets customers know you are taking safety seriously, and is a way to allay their concerns.

Speak Honestly

Finally, this is a time to speak from the heart. Let your customers know you appreciate their business. Let them know your thought process about closing vs offering delivery only, so they know you are being thoughtful. Speak honestly about how you are finding balance between staying open to bring in whatever business is possible with ensuring you are only doing what you can do safely. Everyone is stressed and concerned right now, but reminding them of the humans behind the business helps customers remember who they are helping when they support your restaurant.

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