Don’t let Coronavirus kill your business – here’s what you can do to protect customers and your brand…

Coronavirus, or Covid-19, is spreading and as it does so, global panic is rising, not least because of the relatively high death rate the disease brings with it.

With the virus now affecting businesses around the world, and with the restaurant trade one of the hardest hit, particularly in certain areas, it’s important to take steps to prevent further spread. Here’s what your food-based brand should do, to protect staff, customers, and the general public from the potentially lethal virus, and ensure your profits remain as healthy as possible.

What’s all the fuss about?

Coronavirus is the latest strain from a family of deadly respiratory illnesses known as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). First sparking worldwide pandemonium in the early 2000’s, the initial SARS outbreak was estimated to have infected 8,000 people and claimed almost 800 lives.

Experts say Coronavirus is contracted by direct contact with an infected person, particularly from the airborne droplets that are transmitted when a person with the virus coughs or sneezes. Symptoms can develop over a period of 14 days, though more typically emerge over 5 or 6. Already the disease has had much more impact than SARS, though it has a proportionally lower death rate. 82,757 people are known to have contracted Coronavirus, with 2,817 deaths having been attributed so far to the virus (27th February 2020).

As the virus can now be transmitted from human to human, though it was first thought to have originated in bats, then transmitted to humans via an unknown animal in a food market in Wuhan province, China, it’s important to up hygiene standards during daily workplace activities in this time of increased concern.

So, what should you do to prevent Coronavirus and other bugs spreading…?

First, sanitise everything using a safe, antibacterial detergent before and after every shift. Ensure your staff members regularly sanitise their hands, washing them for at least 20 seconds a time. If they have long hair, make sure they tie it back when serving, and whether they have long or short hair, make sure they always thoroughly cover it to prepare food. As well, ensure employees wear clean clothing whenever serving or preparing food.

You should also supply your staff with face masks that they can wear while they cook or prep food, to minimise potential exposure to customers. Buy health grade masks that are air-tight, to ensure there is no leakage, and provide plenty of sanitary disposable gloves for each staff member to wear when cooking, chopping, or baking.

Thoroughly disinfect plates, cutlery, glassware, and any other items used by customers or staff in boiling water and dishwashing detergent before reusing. Always make sure you properly wash down tables and even chairs after every customer, using an appropriate antibacterial solution.

Tell your staff not to come into work if they experience flu like symptoms and to call in as soon as possible if they begin to feel unwell.

If they start feeling unwell at work, tell them to inform you first, then allow them to go home immediately until they are fully recovered. Although Coronavirus cases outside China are still extremely rare, it’s important to err on the side of caution. So, if a staff member’s symptoms closely mirror the virus, tell them to go home and quarantine themselves, then call emergency services for advice, and do the same yourself.

Ensure all your staff members that have been into contact with the sick person do the same, until you have the all clear from official health sources, and the restaurant has been thoroughly disinfected.

If you have to leave work, try and get a backup team, who have not been into contact with the sick member of staff, take over shifts, as this way, you can still continue to keep normal business hours.

Although this advice sounds extreme, it’s important that when Coronavirus symptoms present themselves to prevent further spread of infection, as this will be a highly contagious period. The alternative is far worse, as failing to adequately protect customers, and subsequently developing a reputation as a brand that helped spread the deadly disease could prove fatal to your business reputation.

Coronavirus is taking a bite out of the restaurant trade…here’s how to combat it

Certain businesses, depending on the kind of food they serve and where they are located have been seriously impacted by the virus’s spread. Chinese restaurants everywhere, but especially in busy cities and towns like the Gold Coast, near Sydney, Australia and Chinatown, in London, have seen a dramatic dearth of footfall ever since the disease emerged at the start of 2020.

Other food-based brands that rely on eat-in customers in densely populated areas are also experiencing slow down, as the public opts to stay at home more and more as fears about the disease grow.

If you find footfall is slowing because of people’s fears about contracting the virus there are things you can do to rev up your business and keep profits going. If you can offer home deliveries, this would be an excellent time to promote these services to your existing customer base, or, alternatively, you could make promotional videos or posts on your social media, assuring people of your restaurant’s firm commitment to hygiene.

You can make it clear that staff are required to be ultra-hygienic during the food preparation phase, emphasise that all food packaging will be thoroughly disinfected, and could even arrange to monitor staff temperatures to give people extra reassurance.

If customers don’t want to come into contact with a staff member during delivery, you can arrange a drop off point for their food, providing they have paid first of course.

These are all measures some businesses are taking in China to mitigate the damage to their business, with even big brands such as Pizza Hut and KFC experiencing a big blow to their takings because of the Coronavirus.

Certain brands are even going so far as to install table partitions to prevent customer’s coughs and sneezes infecting other diners, which makes sense, as airborne contraction is thought to be the number one way the disease is spread.

Plan now to protect your brand

Though Coronavirus is a much bigger issue in China, the ground zero of the infection, than anywhere else, as the number of worldwide cases grows, it’s crucial to plan in advance for the worst-case scenario.

The good news is people are unlikely to contract Coronavirus from eating out, as diners tend to go for meals with their friends or family, and usually need to be within six feet of someone to get infected.

As Coronavirus is just one of many contagious bugs that are likely to trouble us over the coming years though, it makes sense for your establishment to nail down excellent health and safety procedures now, to guarantee minimal impact on your business in the future.

Whenever there is a health scare, it nearly always has a knock on effect on the restaurant business, as eating is an obviously risky activity when it comes to potential cross- infection.

Making sure your hygiene is spotless during these times, and at all times, and even going out of your way to implement extra-protective measures, will help you build customer trust and minimise profit loss during epidemic outbreaks, by making people feel safe whenever they eat at your establishment.

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