Blog: Covid-19 and Business

Note: The following is not medical/legal advice just food for thought. For more guidance visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html

At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic many worried how this virus would affect the economy. Initially government agencies said (loosely quoting) “wash hands, practice social distancing, and if you are sick don't go to work" followed by "Here's a criteria for essential business..., everyone else stay home". For some this was an easy thing, for others it was a economic death sentence. From a marketing perspective, how you deal with infection control in your business will make or break you in the public eye and financially. Here are things you need to consider before you reopen your doors.


Parking Lot/Curbside

Most people desire to park as close as they can to the front door. This is especially true when the weather is wet or cold. It’s also problematic if you have only one entrance. Keeping the required social distancing of 6 feet is a challenge. If you have a parking lot ensure every other one has a cone. This keeps customers from bumping into each other. For a curbside delivery plan this enables your staff to move around safely and customers can actually roll their windows down without fear of droplets travelling in the wind from the guy who just coughed in his car that’s just a few feet away. For businesses, like tax preparers or hair salons, this allows clients to sit and wait until they get a call to enter the building. Drive-thru If you can utilize drive-thru service do it. Entrance and Exit

Many businesses have used a “one way in, one way out” approach. Those have created a path of sale/business/service where everyone travels in the same direction while following social distancing. For small businesses who only have one door and limited floor space this is a challenge. If you have a glass door put a sign that says “Please look before opening and step aside 6ft when people are exiting”. On the inside have a sign that says, “Please look before opening and step aside 6ft when people are entering”. For retail business, people want to browse, if you can create a path of sale using shelves, small traffic cones, displays, or even cardboard boxes stacked waist-high is helpful. You can design it such that it compliments your store and not make the customer feel like a rat in a maze. Avoid “bargain bins” that require customers to stand and dig through merchandise like DVDs and clearance items. All door handles need to be wiped down by soap and water hourly or hand sanitizer available at the door. Lobby/Waiting Area

For social distancing concerns, this is a nightmare. Keep all waiting areas closed until the pandemic is over; remove chairs, block it off-whatever. Instruct customers to wait in their car until motioned or called to enter. For sit-down or order-at-counter restaurants have a friendly/observant host by the door to regulate who comes in. If there is a wait have them take the customers telephone number and invite them to wait in their car. When a table is open the host calls the customer and invites them in. To ensure quicker service, establish a reservation procedure. Be sure to announce this procedure on a marquee, signs posted around the parking lot, on menus, at the door, and on social media/websites. For order-at-counter restaurants, seat customers also. If you don’t want to have people wait in their cars then they need to stand outside in circles on the ground seven feet apart (people tend to not stand directly on the circle but near it. That extra foot compensates for the ignored 6ft rule). Masks One-on one services like hair salons need to insist clients wear masks. Disposable or washable masks should be provided before each client enters the building. Retail should encourage customer mask use. Restaurants are extremely at risk to infection because masks can’t be worn while eating. For added protection clear face shields can be worn. Dining room/service area

Again this is a nightmare. For checkouts go back to the 7 foot circle thing. For restaurants create a path of service that prevents people from bumping into each other and allows them to seat themselves at tables that are 7 feet from each other. Tables that are not used need to be marked or seats removed. This saves redundant discussions with people who may disagree with your safeguards. To limit exposure to staff, sanitized menus are waiting and customers are deciding before a server comes to take an order. Ensure your friendly/observant host informs guests of this procedure. If you can create a way people can order with their smartphones via an app do it. This provides feedback and information for future marketing efforts. Lastly outdoor seating is preferable, with cold weather coming it is wise to think ahead area since rental companies will be swamped with orders for propane heaters etc. After reading this call a rental company for prices. Customer Bathroom Keep it closed..period. If customers don’t like it they can use your curbside/pick up service. For services like hair salons etc. the bathroom needs to be sanitized after each client.


Refills Nope, unless it’s in a fresh glass. Once an item leaves the table it is dirty. Doggy bags Customers are responsible for putting food into boxes. Staff should avoid helping customer with this. Cashier Station Ideally there should be a barrier between your cashier and customers. Some stores have installed Plexiglas with a little opening below to allow transactions. If you can’t afford glass consider using a clear shower curtain hanging from a frame (I recently saw this at a gas station in Wyandotte, Oklahoma..genius!) This prevents droplets from covering everything during a transaction. Have sanitizer on hand for both parties.


Payment

Point-of-Sale (POS) machines get germy real quick. If you can take a debit card and hand sanitize between each transaction this is best. If cash is used, use two separate, different colored containers; for cash received (dark color) and cash returned (light color). This ensures you are not passing possible infection to customers. Cash received can be quarantined or disinfected with rubbing alcohol or hand washed then air dried. Changing rooms Like bathrooms retailers need to close changing rooms. customers breathing on clothes is enough to pass Covid-19 around. Cashiers need to encourage customers to “size-up” before purchasing and wash before wearing. Returns Take unopened packages only and wipe down the packaging with Clorox wipes. Clothing will need to be washed and donated to charity. No returns on toilet paper or cleaning supplies. They horded it, they have to deal with storing it. Food is tossed. Employees

When it comes to food handling, or any other item, everyone should be wearing a mask because exhaling also produces droplets. Employees need to be educated on proper mask use. If used, rubber/plastic gloves need to be changed with each task or customer interaction. Hands also need to be sanitized in between customers with mandatory hand washing every thirty minutes. Take temperatures of employees using a temporal (forehead) thermometer and sanitize it with an alcohol wipe between tests before and after each shift and ask them if they have the following symptoms. Cough, fever, chills, headache, shortness of breath, new loss of sense of taste and smell . Have them sign date a sheet attesting this is true. Ensure everyone works the same shift each day in case someone lies or didn't know they were an asymptomatic carrier. Keep shifts away from each other and have one way in one way out so they don't pass each other or stagger exiting/reporting times if you have only one door. Only have the same people assist customers each day. cash and cards should only be touched by people who are not directly handling food/merchandise. Lastly ensure everyone washed their clothes and masks after their shift. Remind them before they leave and ask them when they arrive. Make sure you have an open door policy for them to freely tell you they are sick. Assure them if they are sent home they still have a job. Provide masks to employees that are branded with your business logo/name if possible. Shift can also have different colored masks. Remember you are liable for employees each time they clock in. Marketing

On social media talk about your safety measures, and post pictures of business-branded masked employees helping customers. Put your established policies online and invite customers to visit your website with a QR code. Contact local media and let them know what you are doing.




Parting thoughts Keeping track of everyone who enters your business is key. This helps local health officials determine exposure if a customer or employee comes down with Covid-19. When you go above and beyond with workplace sanitation your employees are better protected and that ensures a safer productive workplace and customers will notice the difference in a positive way. These procedures also help if someone is ignorant or lawsuit happy. Ultimately you have the right to refuse service or send an employee home if you feel your staff or customers are in danger. If you have any questions feel free to contact us. Sources: Dealing with Covid-19 in Public https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html Best Practices for Restaurants https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-during-emergencies/best-practices-retail-food-stores-restaurants-and-food-pick-updelivery-services-during-covid-19 Dealing with Germy Cash https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/06/what-you-need-to-know-about-handling-cash-amid-coronavirus-spread-who.html Asymptomatic Carriers https://www.discovermagazine.com/health/asymptomatic-carriers-are-fueling-the-covid-19-pandemic-heres-why-you-dont People in Enclosed Spaces Unit Field Sanitation Team FM 4-25.12 (US Army Manual) https://usacac.army.mil/sites/default/files/misc/doctrine/CDG/cdg_resources/manuals/fm/fm4_25x12.pdf Employees and Covid-19 https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus Lawsuits https://www.natlawreview.com/article/class-action-litigation-related-to-covid-19-filed-and-anticipated-cases Oklahoma State Law Protecting Businesses that follow health guidelines http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2019-20%20ENR/SB/SB1946%20ENR.PDF Branded Masks for Business https://www.fastcompany.com/90549586/from-pandemic-necessity-to-human-billboard-how-face-masks-evolved-into-a-must-have-accessory


About the Author

Michael Woodruff is owner of Woodruff Media Management, a marketing/news agency in Miami, Oklahoma. Mike has worked in food service, retail, manufacturing, and broadcasting. While in the Army from 1995-2003, Mike was certified in field sanitation, hazardous materials handling, and combat lifesaver. At film school Mike was certified in film safety standards for OSHA. Woodruff Media Management has enacted strict guidelines to include hand sanitizing, fabric face masks, social distancing, and using open air locations (if feasible) or video conferencing when meeting with clients, newsmakers, and the general public. All equipment is wiped down with electronic cleaner.

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