Employee health and safety should always be a priority for every restaurant.

You’d think that medical workers might stand the highest risk as they combat COVID-19 on the front lines. Surprisingly, this is not the case. In fact, a UCSF study revealed that line cooks are actually at the highest risk, with more COVID deaths in the food and agriculture industries than anywhere else.

In light of this information, the measures you take to protect your employees are of the utmost importance. You rely on your cooks, servers, and management staff to run your restaurant—just as your customers rely on you for safe, high-quality food. Without consistent health and safety measures in place, you put lives on the line.

But integrating these policies alone isn’t enough. Highlighting employee safety is one of the many ways the pandemic has changed restaurant marketing. And while there are many reasons for doing so, the following should be more than enough to convince you to market restaurant employee safety on your website.

1. To protect workers

First, the desire to protect all your employees should be the chief motivating factor for every safety policy and practice you promote. Create a business continuity plan that answers the question of what happens when and if there’s a COVID-19 exposure at your restaurant. It can also address when there are new state or local guidelines for operation. It should never place employee health above your desire for profit. Regardless of how it might feel, your restaurant is replaceable—human life is not.

Once effective safety measures are in place that correspond to CDC guidelines, you should start the process of marketing what you’ve done to ensure worker safety via your digital platforms. Though this might seem like disingenuous self-promotion, there’s one key reason why it’s not: marketing safety measures enables your workers and customers to hold you accountable.

People are fallible. Perhaps nothing in recent history has proved that quite as well as the varied responses to the pandemic. However, by stating clearly for the general public what your safety policies are, employees and customers alike can point—hopefully politely—to where these policies aren’t being adequately followed.

From there, you are in a position to make changes and ensure adherence to safety measures, all to prevent illness and death in your workplace.

2. To make customers feel safe

Secondly, you need to cultivate an environment in which guests feel safe to dine in or order food to go. Clarity and cleanliness are key aspects of an effective customer service approach. Marketing your employee safety measures is one way to achieve this in the COVID-era.

Showcasing your employee health and safety policies on your website and through omnichannel marketing platforms gives customers all the information they might need to feel safe. This goes far beyond COVID-19, as well. With the yearly resurgence of the flu, customers need to feel at all times as though they are in an environment that supports employee health.

Reports have shown that as many as 12 percent of foodservice workers have actively served while they were sick with symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea. No one wants to dine in an environment in which this is occurring. So to keep COVID and the flu out of your restaurant, you need supportive employee safety measures that include sick pay.

Customers understand that without proper employee treatment, illness is going to seep into restaurants at higher rates. Because of this, marketing your prioritization of employee health and wellness will go a long way towards not only making customers feel safe to eat your food but also towards attracting new talent.

3. To attract new talent

Right now, finding and retaining the ideal employees in any restaurant isn’t exactly easy. At every level, the foodservice industry is struggling to hire as many workers as it needs to effectively meet demand. The jobs are there, but for a wide combination of reasons, workers are leaving the industry.

One of these reasons is a safety concern. Foodservice workers see reports like the UCSF study and don’t want to take those risks. By marketing the actions you take to ensure employee safety, however, your restaurant can better assuage these fears to attract the talent you’re looking for.

As an added guarantee of employee safety, you can even consider offering bonuses for employees who receive vaccines for COVID and the flu. Adding an incentive can help you mitigate risks while encouraging workers to stay as safe as possible. Furthermore, marketing these incentives can boost your ability to reach and comfort both your prospective employees and your customers.

Employee health and safety should always be a priority for every restaurant. The risks of failing to maintain a safe environment for food preparation and dining can lead to lawsuits in a best-case scenario and death as the worst case. Implement protective measures that adhere to the science of food and worker safety. From there, you can market your policies to promote your restaurant as a safe place to eat and work.

Managing the prevailing public health crisis of the modern era means ensuring these policies. To protect workers, make customers feel safe, and attract new talent, market your safety measures for an added layer of accountability.

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer from the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics and, because she spent over six years in the restaurant business before writing full-time, takes a particular interest in covering topics related to the food and beverage industry. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter.

Expert Takes, Feature, Labor & Employees