As the COVID-19 crisis continues to evolve, every state in the union has now officially begun the task of reopening their economies, to varying extents and with varying degrees of success.
For restaurants that have been relegated to a pickup and delivery-only business model as their dining rooms sit empty, the challenge now is in how best to reopen their doors, rehire staff, and welcome back wary customers.
It’s not an easy proposition. New guidelines from governments and healthcare officials have slashed dining room capacities while imposing a slew of detailed regulations aimed at keeping restaurant workers and patrons from infecting each other.
In other posts, we’ve discussed the practical challenges involved in minimizing COVID spread as you reopen your doors to the public, but there are other things to consider as well. Customers aren’t the only ones coming back.
While displaced employees may be eager to get back to earning a steady paycheck, they also have to weigh the risk they might face. If they should happen to become infected on the job and bring the virus home to their families, they could lose much more than a paycheck. So, let’s discuss some strategies for rehiring and keeping employees safe, motivated, and happy in a post-COVID world.
First and foremost on everybody’s minds as the country gets back to business is safety. Employees and customers alike are looking for reassurance that, as much as possible, precautions are in place to prevent the spread of disease.
More than ever, you’ll want to keep things clean. And you’ll want the public to SEE you keeping things clean. But there are a multitude of other precautionary measures to make it clear to employees and customers that your priority is a sanitary work and dining experience. Some of these measures might include:
- Requiring both customers and employees to wear masks
- Cleaning of POS terminals between uses
- Keeping utensils, condiments, and napkins behind the counter to be distributed upon request
- Frequent use of hand sanitizer and a change of gloves after each customer interaction
- Cleaning of credit cards each time they change hands
- Easily accessible hand sanitizer stations for the use of employees and customers
And possibly the most effective measures would be those that maximize the ability of patrons and workers to remain physically distanced from each other. POS-integrated solutions like those offered by OneDine can allow customers to check in, order, and pay for their meal from their table using their mobile device, eliminating the need for extended close contact between server and diner as well as the exchange of menus, credit cards, pens, and receipts
But COVID is not the only consideration in the effort to keep economically traumatized employees happy and motivated after returning to work from quarantine. Now, more than ever, it’s important to pay attention to employee motivation and satisfaction.
Give them a voice
We’re all feeling a bit out of control. One of the most important ways to keep employees happy is to give some control back to them. Give them a voice, and listen to what they have to say in regards to important issues ranging from availability and flexible scheduling to identifying the best ways to adjust to a new world of socially distant dining.
Invest in excellence
The best way to get employees who are good at what they do is to invest in building their skills. Yes, it will cost you something to provide continuing education and training, and money is not in great supply; but it will benefit everyone in the long run to build the skills of the workforce you have rather than having to constantly hire and train inexperienced new employees. If you invest in the future of your employees, they’ll be much more likely to want to spend that future with you.
And speaking of the future, make sure you reward your employees for helping you build that future.
Turnover rates in the restaurant industry are a constant threat to productivity and profit. As mentioned above, it’s much better to keep and invest in the staff you’ve got than to deal with a constantly revolving door of new employees. Use the money that you would inevitably use to find and train new employees to give the employees you’ve got bonuses or raises. Offer rewards like preferred shifts or sections, certain holidays off, and social media breaks to show your appreciation for their hard work.
Fun and incentives
Work doesn’t have to equal drudgery. Take the time and effort to provide your employees with opportunities to unwind. Recreational activities in the breakroom, opportunities to share meals together, and managers who embody a spirit of camaraderie can go a long way toward making your employees feel appreciated. It can also make the workplace a more enjoyable place to be–and that benefits everyone, from waitstaff and kitchen staff to your customers.