Hamburger on tray being served by person in white shirt.
Unsplash/Micheile Henderson

Make sure your employees understand how to protect themselves.

4 Guidelines for Managing Restaurant Workers in a ‘New Normal’

Prospective employees won't stick around if you aren't looking out for their health and safety.

With a vaccine for COVID-19 still a distant goal, it’s up to business owners to take the necessary precautions to protect the health and safety not only of their patrons, but also of workers across the foodservice chain—including warehousing and distribution centers. Any negative impact to the health of these essential workers risks severely disrupting the supply chain, which would lead to limited menus, increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, not to mention unhappy customers, too. That said, safety practices are often harder to manage than we recognize at first. From food procurement to distribution centers, to your restaurant doors, it takes planning, budgeting and management to effectively maintain a streamlined operational procedure that keeps all involved safe and healthy.

Fortunately, here are four guidelines for managing workers as you serve up appetites in our new normal.

Develop an Action Plan

First things first, an action plan for getting back to work safely is imperative for smooth operations. Randstad, in partnership with the HR Services Alliance, created a comprehensive report compiling over 400 health and safety protocols from industry leaders in 13 countries and five sectors. Adhering to a practical guide, and your local government officials and agencies will help promote economic recovery in general—and in turn support the resilience of society as a whole.

Commit to Workplace Safety and Attract Talent in the Process

With last month’s unemployment numbers reaching unprecedented highs, more Americans will be looking for work but one thing can impact them from showing up: safety. Safety protocols impact more than just in-house restaurant staff. The same rules, guidelines and best practices apply for employees involved in the back-end processes as well, including warehousing, distribution and food supply chains. In fact, there’s been a surge in demand for manufacturing roles—with some warehouses reporting year-over-year volume spikes as high as 30 percent right now.

But to deliver on that demand, employers be warned: Prospective employees won't stick around if you aren't looking out for their health and safety. And word spreads fast. More broadly, remember that you put the food supply chain at risk when proper procedures aren’t in place to protect workers.

Prepare Your Team for Quick Changes

When lockdown and shelter-in-place orders went into effect, many leaders in the foodservice industry had some time to reflect on flaws in their current systems. Now, with businesses reopening, it's time to implement solutions. And while it may take some time to figure out a long-term solution for serving customers, it certainly helps if your staff is already prepared and ready to make rapid changes. Consider these three tips:

Utilize a safety management system—Based on guidelines from OSHA and the CDC, you will most likely be working with a skeleton crew in smaller spaces. Therefore, using a safety management system and assigning an individual or small team with the responsibility of implementing these changes may be helpful in preventing the spread of illness.

Cross-train your workforce—Provide regular training on COVID19 related safety. Make sure your employees understand how to protect themselves, safeguard food and can identify symptoms in others so they can hold each other accountable.

Provide the necessary PPEs and safeguards—Provide gloves and masks for employees, regardless if they’re customer-facing, working in food prep, or management.

Adapt operational and productivity processes—Ensure all employees have visible cues to remind them to maintain social distancing and install additional hand sanitization and soaps in common areas. Communicate information about workforce scheduling—for example, if you're staggering shifts or taking steps to ensure employees are on-site at different times—to your management team. This will help lessen the amount of contact between employees in your establishment.

Prepare Your Business—So You're Ready Later

Across the board, companies are calling for governments to step in and implement pandemic response policies to ensure our supply system doesn't shut down when it's needed most. For now, businesses must remain flexible and adapt production in order to manufacture critical goods that feed everyday Americans. Beyond needing the liquidity to finance supply chain operations and keep suppliers working, they also have to cope with practical challenges — for example, accepting digital signatures to minimize human contact. In that light, having the right protocols in place to welcome employees back to safer work environments will drive greater productivity while lessening the risk of a second wave of infections.

By reflecting on some of the challenges raised by COVID-19, you can prepare for long-term effects on the supply chain—and put your business in a better position to succeed once the economy takes off. The journey to a safer, healthier workplace starts today. 

Greg Dyer is the president of Randstad Commercial Staffing. He leads Randstad's in-house services concept and enterprise strategic accounts team, where he is responsible for strategic commercial sales, client delivery and account management for many of Randstad's largest clients. Greg oversees a team of strategic account directors and in-house leaders and has a proven track record of establishing solid go-to-market strategies, setting and communicating clear vision and goals and delivering outstanding results. Under Greg's leadership, Randstad has significantly improved strategic delivery and fulfillment in many client staffing programs.