Managing Through the COVID-19 Crisis With Digital Food Safety

State of the industry today:

It goes without saying that the foodservice industry is feeling the effect of the coronavirus. With restrictions that only allow restaurants to serve customers via takeout, pickup, drive-thru, and delivery, the industry has seen a 74.2% YoY decline of average daily revenue from the same time period in 2019, according to Toast. There has also been a 40% decline in the total number of hours worked by food service employees.

decline in worked foodservice hours

A contributing factor to this is the decline in foot traffic to fast-food restaurants. Foursquare reported that foot traffic has declined greatly in the past few weeks, and especially since March 15th, which is when many major cities announced “shelter in place” lockdown.

COVID-19 impact on fast food
Full-service vs Quick-service:

The entire industry is hurting, but when we break down further by restaurant type, we notice a trend. Fast food and quick-serve restaurants are showing slightly higher revenue than full-service restaurants. This is supported by a report from Yelp that fast food-related searches have increased by 64%.

Increase in fast food searches

With options like takeout/pickup ordering, delivery, and drive-thrus, many restaurants were prepared to pivot to the new, but necessary serving model. Another data point from Toast shows a 56% increase in off-premises dining revenue since February 14th.

Customers need encouragement:

The CDC states “…coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently, there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.”

Even while experts like the CDC confirm that the virus cannot be spread through food, about 47% of people still feel nervous or at risk ordering and eating purchased food.

How you can adapt:

In an effort to keep staff and food sanitary, as well as help customers feel confident in the safety of their food, many brands have publicly adapted their operations. Below are some of these best practices to consider implementing.

  • Encourage the use of mobile ordering and credit cards to reduce the use of cash. Experts have expressed concern that the virus can live for extended periods of time on surfaces, including cash. It’s easy to reduce the risk of transmission between employees and customers by discouraging the use of cash as much as possible, and even mobile ordering to avoid any exchange of credit cards.
  • Offer curbside pickup to avoid the need for customers to enter the store. By allowing customers to come in to pick up orders, you increase the chances of having them touch door handles, windows, countertops, etc. If curbside pickup is an option, it could be the safest option for your customers and employees.
  • Adapt the menu for takeout and drive-thru only. This will reduce back of the house stress and show customers how your store is thoughtfully adapting. Big brands and small businesses alike are tailoring their menus to modify service as needed for optimal operations while still serving customer favorites (examples from Brick and Ivy and Cracker Barrel below).
Brick & Ivy rooftop
Cracker Barrel
  • Use hand sanitizer only when handwashing is not available or convenient. It can actually take up to 5 minutes for hand sanitizer to break down contaminants. The FDA agrees, stating that “…hand sanitizers are not intended to replace handwashing in food production and retail settings.” Encourage employees to use hand sanitizer only when access to proper handwashing is not an option.
  • Enforce thorough handwashing. Germs can remain under fingernails, around nail polish, and under jewelry even after proper handwashing. When employees do wash their hands, try to ensure that they are removing any jewelry, and getting in and around these high-risk areas of the skin.

Most of all, customers want to hear what actions your restaurant has taken to keep the employees and food safe. Below are some examples of restaurants (Brick and Ivy, Pammy’s Cambridge) that have publicly informed their customers of precautionary measures taken, to ensure that they should feel safe while ordering from the establishment.

Brick & Ivy rooftop
Pammy's Cambridge

The Squadle system promotes sanitary food processes and compliance with healthy preventative practices, especially during this time. With tools to increase communication between your stores and employees, handwashing checks, and staying on top of your regular food safety needs, Squadle can help make it all a little more manageable. You can read more about how Squadle can help your operations during COVID-19 here.