Handling Customer Fears about COVID-19 and Food Safety

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.*”  Despite this information, the public is still concerned about the safety of restaurant takeout now. In fact, according to Datassential, 52% of consumers said even when the COVID-19 crisis stats improve and social distancing is eased, they would not be comfortable eating inside restaurant dining areas.

To help anticipate those customer needs and deliver on expectations in a new climate of restaurant operations, here are a few suggestions on how to improve consumer confidence that will keep customers coming back and referring business.

Give Customers Direction

Whether it is how to order, knowing what your pick-up procedures are, or how your restaurant approaches no-contact delivery, it’s important to be clear with customers about what they can expect. Many people are feeling a bit powerless right now, so giving them a clear path on how to interact with your employees safely will be appreciated.

Make the information easily accessible before, during, and after they receive their order to keep your dedication to their safety top of mind while they enjoy their meal. 

QUICK TIP: Focus phrasing on what customers can do, instead of using phrases of what not to do. Not only will it empower customers, but it’s also shown to be the most effective way to train people to learn new rules.

Share Your Safety Practices

If you work in a restaurant, this isn't the first time you’ve heard the 20-second rule for handwashing. The food safety certification guidelines for food managers and food handlers vary some from region to region, but training proper handwashing, surface cleaning and disinfection practices, and safe food handling and storage is just part of standard restaurant operations. 

However, not all customers know your staff gets food safety training, especially since much of it is practiced to keep them safe happens behind the scenes. 

QUICK TIP: Post on social media, on your website and at checkout in your restaurant (for limited service and takeout) how your restaurant is committed to food safety. Include new processes implemented for the Coronavirus pandemic to provide the safest pick-up or delivery possible.


Make a Show of It

In addition to visibly posting your procedures, the key to reassuring customers is making each action visibly obvious. Customers will notice when staff takes a minute to reapply sanitizer, wash hands, change gloves, etc. Keep in mind customers’ concerns and set them at ease with your level of care and detail. 

QUICK TIP: Put the hand sanitizer where customers are more likely to see you use it. Make wiping down surfaces enough of a process to get noticed. Put a box of gloves where the customer can see it while you are handing their to-go order. Use tamper-evident labels on container closures or tamper-evident containers to ensure delivery customers their food has not been opened since it left the restaurant.

Now is the time to bring those food safety procedures out from behind the counter and show how your restaurant is committed to protecting the public health – and treating their communities like family by keeping everyone safe. 

About ExpandShare: ExpandShare powers staff training as part of CHECK® Business Tools. ExpandShare offers easy tools and expert guidance to teach restaurant employees, maintain knowledge and culture, and use the power and reach of video.

To support operators during this time, ExpandShare has created videos addressing COVID-19 concerns and delivery driver courses. These videos are available for free here.

If you need food safety training for your team, ExpandShare has partnered with Always Food Safe to offer three ANSI-accredited food safety certification courses for free or discounted pricing. Learn more about these courses here and to get started, reach out to your US Foods representative  or submit an inquiry for ExpandShare on checkbusinesstools.com.

*Centers for Disease Control, Coronavirus FAQs, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html