The COVID-19 pandemic changed how we do virtually everything — work, play, eat, exercise — in unprecedented ways. As things slowly get back to the way they were before the outbreak, it’s becoming ever more clear some of these changes are here to stay.
According to Forbes, remote work shot up from just five percent of full-time employees to 20 to 30 percent post-pandemic. But remote work isn’t the only lasting change caused by the pandemic. We’ve also gotten comfortable with COVID-spurred conveniences like curbside grocery pickup and telehealth visits.
Another area left deeply changed by the COVID pandemic, for better or for worse, is the food service industry. Those who provide the public with food and drinks know the virus brought on a whole host of challenges, starting with how we clean.
Restaurateurs were forced to adapt to a whole new level of sanitation while making adjustments to the environment to keep patrons distanced and safe. Small things like switching to extra thick garbage bags and disinfecting all surfaces between guests made a huge difference, and customers took notice.
In fact, recent studies show the COVID-19 outbreak has made patrons more aware and more cautious of food safety than they were before the pandemic. One study showed over 75 percent of people polled in 2021 say they wouldn’t eat at an establishment they didn’t believe was practicing good hygiene. This indicates that taking your restaurant’s cleaning practices seriously is no longer optional. It’s a requirement to stay in business.
Why Deep Cleaning Must Stay
There’s one primary reason why restaurants should keep some COVID practices in place, even when COVID is a distant memory. To put it simply, customers won’t eat at restaurants they think are unclean or unsafe. But there are a few more factors at play you’ll want to consider when learning how to readjust to “the new normal.” Here are some more things to keep in mind.
- Deep Cleaning Keeps Patrons Safe — Most importantly, the deep cleaning practices spurred by the pandemic will help keep your patrons and your community safe from viruses. New practices involve taking extra steps to disinfect dining tables, chairs, condiment caddies, etc. between each guest. This will help prevent future virus outbreaks in your business which could compromise your reputation and the health of your employees.
- Fewer Germs = Healthier Workers — Speaking of employees… you wouldn’t have a business without them! As we learned from COVID, exposed workers must take time off work which puts their livelihood and your business in jeopardy. Keeping germs out of your establishment helps ensure your workers aren’t exposed to anything that could cause them to have to stay home.
- Deep Cleaning Creates a Better Environment — In general, deep cleaning reminds us to pay closer attention to the look, smell and general ambiance of the front and back of the house. Something as simple as disinfecting prep stations and handles between shifts and swapping out 55-gallon trash bags throughout the day will help cut down on illnesses and odors, creating a more pleasant and hospitable environment for guests and employees.
How to Maintain Top-Tier Cleanliness Post-Pandemic
Undoubtedly, you’ll be happy to see some guidelines fall by the wayside. Physical distancing, plastic barriers and limited capacities will hopefully go, but deep cleaning should not. Here are a few of the top deep cleaning and hygiene guidelines you should keep in place once the pandemic has passed.
- Constantly Disinfect High-Touch Surfaces — One of the biggest changes in cleaning brought forth by COVID-19 is the number of times surfaces are disinfected throughout the day. Prep areas, bar tops, dining tables, dining chairs, door handles, menus, condiment bottles, etc. are all getting much more attention than they ever did, and it has made a huge difference in cutting down the amount of germs spread. Keep this practice in place to deter regular seasonal viruses as well as to prevent any outbreaks of future strains.
- Keep the Most Effective Disinfectants — While we used a variety of sanitizing and disinfecting products before, the ones used now are likely more effective and efficient against viruses. Make sure to keep reordering those highly effective disinfectants — sprays, wipes, etc. — and using them frequently.
- Take Out the Trash Multiple Times Throughout the Day — The trash harbors all sorts of germs, especially in food service environments where bacteria runs rampant. Make sure to take trash out multiple times throughout the day and replace your 55- and 42-gallon trash bags regularly to prevent germs and bacteria from settling in bins. On the same token, be sure to disinfect trash and recycling bins at the end of each day after you take the trash out for the night.
- Encourage Constant Hand-Washing — The food and beverage industries have long known the importance of hand-washing, but the COVID pandemic really brought to light just how crucial it really is. Make sure to keep your hand-washing regulations in place for employees and keep up any signage so they remember to take washing breaks during shifts and after certain tasks. Always make sure to keep sanitizer readily available to employees and guests.
- Keep the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) — We know your team might be eager to finally stop wearing face masks and gloves, but these accoutrements can really cut down on the amount of germs and bacteria that spreads throughout your facility, making deep cleaning more effective. In fact, studies show mask-wearing can significantly decrease the spread of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19 and the seasonal flu. On the same note, you should encourage your employees to get vaccinated against viruses.
Whether you own a restaurant, bar, catering service or coffee shop, it’s crucial you maintain an emphasis on health and cleanliness. These practices are better for everyone — your employees, guests and the community as a whole. And they’re also better for your business. The pandemic put a spotlight on food service safety which isn’t likely to dim anytime soon, so make sure your establishment remains in a good light.