F&B outlets – whether they be fine dine, QSRs or bars – have all been adversely affected by the pandemic and have taken various steps to induce the customers to return to their hospitality properties. Adopting measures to maintain hygiene and cleanliness, not only in the outhouse but also in the kitchen, have been a priority in these outlets. Efforts of the management have not only been to assure diners’ health and wellbeing but also that of their employees.
Ashok Malkani tries to fathom the efforts of the industry towards this end and also if these trends would continue in the New Normal, that is likely to set in the future.
Restaurant industry has been adversely affected more than any other industry, due to the pandemic. According to a report by the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) the India food services market shrank by 53 per cent during the FY 2021 compared to the previous fiscal year. This, the report adds, led to a closure of 25 per cent of food business operators.
However, organized sector is recovering at a rapid pace and, according to Covid-19 Impact Assessment Report, is expected to increase its share in the food services pie to 54 per cent by 2025, up from 27 per cent in FY 2021. But all this can be achieved only if precautions are taken to ensure safety of the dine-in as well as online customers. And having a clean and safe business is one of the top priorities for this!
The customers have become extra conscious about the hygiene being maintained in the F&B outlets. Restaurants’ cleanliness expectations, today, are higher than ever, at every stage.
Though there have been some relaxations in restrictions imposed on food & beverage outlets the restaurateurs are conscious about the hesitancy of the diners to visit restaurants like they did in the pre-pandemic days. It has become important for the F&B outlets to maintain hygiene and cleanliness at every stage.
Pandemic has created an enigma for the restaurateurs who have to make it obvious to the clients about maintenance of hygiene and cleanliness in the premises as soon as they enter it.
Yaman Rai, Director of Food & Beverage, Novotel Visakhapatnam Varun Beach and The Bheemili Resort managed by Accor, states “There is a daily cleaning schedule in place along with regular sanitization of restaurant tables before every guest is seated. We ensure areas are properly disinfected and necessary checks are made.”
Sagar Kulkarni, Director of Food & Beverage, Hotel Royal Orchid Bangalore, claims, “Cleaning and sanitizing restaurants regularly is essential for building trust with your customers in this post-COVID era. Your guests need to know their safety is your top priority. Keeping your restaurant clean and germ-free, helps create an atmosphere where they can relax, enjoy themselves without having to worry about the public health crisis, because they know you’ve got their health covered.
“Outlets maintain their Daily, Weekly & Monthly checklist for cleaning which sort of help them to track the cleaning. The checklist comprises of following precautionary measures to be observed:
Keep Linens Clean
Sanitize the Refrigerator and Freezer
Clean Cooking Surfaces and Utensils
Wash Hands Correctly
Vicky Bachani - Co-Founder of Shiv Sagar Restaurant, Vimananagr Pune disclosed, “As far as our restaurant is concerned, we have instructed our staff to follow these steps religiously to maintain sanitization:
Sandeepraj Salian, Co-Founder of Farmaaish Lounge and Rooftop Bar, Vimanagar Pune, avers, “Our service staff is dedicated to providing guests with the most hygienic and safe setup for people to dine with us. All common areas are disinfected before the start of the day. All tables and chairs are sanitized after use. Door handles and high touch zones are sanitized frequently.”
While maintaining cleanliness is important in the outhouse, as it helps in reassuring the customers about the F&B outlet’s intent to help maintain the diners’ wellbeing, it is equally important to preserve hygiene in the kitchen.
Sagar states, “Kitchen hygiene is not just for ensuring health and safety of the staff and guests, it plays a major role in defining the perception of a restaurant. Guests are now very specific in terms of the outlets they choose for dining out. From great food to ambiance, they want a place which is clean and serves hygienic food.
“We always follow 5 important best practices to maintain hygiene and cleanliness standards at our kitchens at Hotel Royal Orchid Bangalore. They are:
Chefs maintaining personal hygiene
Sanitizer for kitchen equipment
Regular inspection of all the areas in the kitchen
Developing kitchen hygiene checklist”
He continues, “In case of food preparations, universally every kitchen follows 4 unique steps to maintain the hygiene in kitchen: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill
“Apart from the above steps, kitchen staff is mandated to maintain strict Personnel hygiene, sanitizing the surface before and after use, wearing Gloves and masks.”
Sandeepraj avers, “We follow FASSAI guidelines for food preparation and storage at our restaurant.
“Our kitchen staff is instructed to wear masks at all times. Counter tops are frequently disinfected. Staff is instructed to wash hands frequently. Any staff with fever or symptoms is instructed to see a doctor immediately. Gloves are compulsory while cooking and preparation.”
Eshieta opines, “For safe handling of the customers, the employees should be provided with clean clothing, proper gloves, hairnets and other safety, and hygienic tools that are necessary for overall hygiene maintenance. Good personal hygiene, including proper and frequent hand-washing, is one the best ways to prevent food-borne illness.”
She adds, “one should adopt the following practices:
Clean – keep yourself and work areas clean.
Separate – keep raw meat and other raw animal products away from other foods.
Cook – always properly cook and prepare foods.
Chill – store foods appropriately, both before and after cooking.”
Vicky declares, “For food preparation we follow all standard food safety guidelines as mentioned by the Food and health departments, in addition to this we make sure that all our kitchen staff is checked for temperature on a regular basis every day. Also:
Masks are mandatory for the entire kitchen staff at all times.
Gloves are compulsory while cooking and preparation.
Staff is instructed to wash hands frequently.
Any staff with fever or symptoms is instructed to see a doctor immediately
Yaman claims, “In the kitchen, all storage areas are thoroughly cleaned & disinfected at regular intervals. The culinary and the kitchen team are in a mandatory food safety attire at all times: clean uniform, covered head and a mask. We also focus on maintaining a minimum of 1 meter’s distance between the chefs during all phases of food production.”
Since maintaining hygiene and cleanliness is essential in F&B outlets to ensure wellbeing of the people, the question arises whether there are any health organizations guiding the restaurateurs on various aspects of cleanliness. One is also keen to know about the products used by the restaurateurs in achieving the targets set for cleanliness and hygiene.
Eshieta Disclosed, “The WHO academy is the world health organization’s state-of-the-art lifelong learning center, bringing the very latest innovations in adult learning to global health. Now under development with the support of France, the academy will scale up learning for impact through online, in-person and blended learning programmes, reaching millions of health workers and others all over the world. Using the latest technologies, it will enable all learners to tailor their learning experiences to meet their own needs and award them digital credentials they can use to verify their competencies and advance their careers.”
Regarding products used for maintaining cleanliness, she says she adheres to the following guidelines:
Always follow the directions on the label of cleaning and disinfection products to ensure safe and effective use. You may need to wear personal protective equipment, such as gloves, goggles, or glasses, depending on the directions on the product label.
Ensure adequate ventilation (for example, open windows and run fans).
Use only the amount recommended on the label.
If diluting with water is indicated for use, use water at room temperature (unless stated otherwise on the label).
Label diluted cleaning or disinfectant solutions.
Do not mix products or chemicals.
Do not eat, drink, breathe, or inject cleaning and disinfection products into your body or apply directly to your skin as they can cause serious harm.
Yaman reveals, “Andhra Pradesh government has issued a guideline in the wake of the pandemic on 9th December, 2021. A penalty will be imposed to all the Establishments/shops/firms, should there be any violation of guidelines. A penalty of Rs. 10,000/- to Rs. 25,000/- will be imposed depending upon the gravity of the offence. A Whatsapp number has been provided to notify any such violation.”
He added, “A chemical disinfectant, such as chlorine or alcohol, should be applied after cleaning to kill any remaining microorganisms. Disinfectant solutions must be prepared and used according to the manufacturer’s recommendations for volume and contact time. A good amount of disinfectant solution should be applied to allow surfaces to remain wet and untouched long enough for the disinfectant to inactivate pathogens, as recommended by the manufacturer.”
Vicky said, “We, at Shiv Sagar Vimananagr Pune, follow the guidelines issues by local authorities like PMC and PMC Health Department. The most updated guidelines are passed on to us via Whatsapp Groups of Restaurant associations.
“Currently we have been instructed to follow strict sanitization and distancing protocols.
We are operating with 50% capacity for dine-in with empty tables to maintain distance between 2 groups.
Temperature checks are mandatory for all guests and we deny entry without masks.
All guests need to sanitize hands before entering the restaurant.
“At our restaurants we use Covid 19 effective products, which also comply with Food safety guidelines and do not risk our guests while dining.”
Sandeepraj stated, “Restaurant associations provide us with time to time updates from authorities. We, at Farmaaish Lounge and Rooftop Bar, Vimanagar Pune, follow all Covid guidelines provided by PMC. The safety rules followed by us are:
Maintaining 50% capacity for dine-in at all times
Installing partitions between tables for safety of our guests.
Temperature checks of all guests
Mandatory use of masks
Sanitizing of hands by guests before entering the premises
Clear signage reminding guests to maintain distance and protocols
As far as cleaning products were concerned, he said that they used Sodium Hypochlorite, diluted with cold water, for disinfection of surfaces. “The right dilution ratio has been instructed to the staff. Whenever possible we use disposable cleaning materials and avoid cleaning systems that employ fabrics or absorbent materials such fabric wiping or cleaning cloths,” he said.
While ensuring the diners’ safety is necessary for their visiting the F&B outlet again, it is equally important to look after the welfare and health of the employees as they are solely responsible for the success of the restaurant. It may be mentioned that food service industry – with or without the present pandemic fear – is a tough industry. In a quick and competitive market place, maximizing a restaurant or bar’s efficiency and productivity is essential for survival. And a big part of the business efficiency depends on the employees. Thus it is necessary not only to look after their welfare but also – in these times of the pandemic – their health. It must be remembered that their ill-health could also affect the health of the customers.
Sagar says “In this Covid era a few simple guidelines are followed by the employees to ensure customer safety. They are:
Making sure the Restaurants, banquets, Bars are clean and hygienic
Tables, Chairs etc are always wiped through disinfectant regularly
Regular & thorough hand washing frequently
Disinfecting the area post operational hours
Promoting the best practice for guests to use masks when at the buffet area
Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds immediately after handling waste.
He adds, “For the safety of the employees, the employers should take the following steps:
Establish, where possible, physical barriers between workers, and between workers and guests.
Close or limit access to common areas where associates are likely to congregate and interact, such as break rooms, parking lots, and in entrance/exit areas.
Consider making foot-traffic single direction in narrow or confined areas, such as aisles and stairwells, to encourage single-file movement at a 6-foot distance.
All Associates should have a basic understanding of COVID-19, how the disease is thought to spread, what the symptoms of the disease are, and what measures can be taken to prevent or minimize the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Vicky cites one of the safety measures adopted for of his employees is that they are 100% Vaccinated with 2 doses.
He adds, “We are trying to educate staff to ensure all guidelines are followed. Employees are the face of the brand. They help us boost the confidence of guests dining with us. We expect them to follow all safety protocols and guide guest on following Covid appropriate behavior.
“To ensure that they remain healthy we adopt the following measures:
Conducting temperature checks 3 times during a day
Mask is compulsory at all times.
Instructing staff to wash hands frequently.
Any staff with fever or symptoms is instructed to see a doctor immediately
Yaman states, “Some of the COVID-19 safety guidelines for employees during the pandemic are:
Compulsory wearing of mask, gloves & hair net
Changing mask in every 4 hours
“Apart from ensuring proper safety gear (hair net, mask & gloves) the employees are supposed to undergo health checks to ensure they are not showing any symptoms. They are supposed to ensure all high touch areas in the restaurants/bar are cleaned and sanitized at increased & regular intervals /after each use.
“For the welfare of the employees, we take the following steps:
All associates are given comprehensive safety & hygiene training
New routines & processes for cleaning, social distancing are undertaken
Course of action for dealing with unwell guests and colleagues
COVID 19 preventive measures, symptoms and containment
Associates are provided with appropriate masks and sanitizer solution
A regular health check of all associates is conducted and recorded
Eshieta disclosed that they have instructed their employees to follow, and maintain a plan to perform regular cleanings of surfaces to reduce the risk of people’s exposure to the virus that causes covid-19.
“For the safety of employees, we, at Kynd Café and Bar, Pune, have following 10 measures in place:
Phasing – create a phased transition to return to work aligned with risk and exposure levels.
Sanitize – before employees return, disinfect the workplace and make any physical alterations needed for physical distancing.
Screenings – develop a health status screening process for all employees.
Hygiene – create a plan to handle sick employees and encourage safe behaviour for good hygiene and infection control.
Tracing – follow proper contact tracing steps, if workers get sick, to curb the spread of covid-19.
Mental health – commit to supporting the mental and emotional health of your workers by sharing support resources and policies.
Training – train leaders and supervisors not only on the fundamentals of safety such as risk assessment and hazard recognition, but also on the impacts of covid-19 on mental health and wellbeing, as employees will feel the effects of the pandemic long after it is over.
Engagement plan – notify employees in advance of the return to work and consider categorizing workers into different groups based on job roles – bringing groups back one at a time.
Communication – develop a communications plan to be open and transparent with workers on your return to work process.
Assessment – outline the main factors your organization is using as guidance to provide a simplistic structure to the extremely complex return to work decision.
Sandeepraj stated, “Some of the COVID-19 safety guidelines followed by us, for employees, during the pandemic are:
Our entire staff is vaccinated with 2 doses of Covishield.
Temperature check of the staff is conducted and noted at the start of the day.
Waiting staff is instructed to just place the dishes on the table to minimize contact. Mask is compulsory at all times.
Staff is instructed to wash hands frequently and avoid touching unwanted spaces.
Team members with symptoms are asked to get tested immediately for the safety of all.”
He continued, “For the safety of our employees, we have not only ensured that they are vaccinated but any staff with fever or symptoms is instructed to see a doctor immediately.”
It is believed that the devastating effects of the corona virus pandemic could have a permanent effect on the way that the customers dine at restaurants – whether it is the local burger joint or a Michelin-starred establishment.
Eshieta states, “Covid-19 has not only been a devastating public-health crisis; it has also been the restaurant industry’s greatest challenge to date. Never have so many restaurants been forced to cease operations; some will never reopen. Early indications—from china and other countries where the pandemic seemed to be under control—suggest that consumer demand won’t immediately rebound when restrictions are lifted. However, restaurants that plan to adapt and refine their restaurant model for the “next normal” will be better positioned to bring sales back to precise levels.
“We recommend a set of concrete actions for restaurants to return to stability and help shape the next normal.”
Sagar asserts, “Trust will play a pivotal role in enabling organizations to recover and rebuild in the near term, and thrive in the long term. Each and every restaurant will need to actively engage with guest and their database and communicate the steps they’re taking to keep guests and employees safe—and demonstrate how they’re living up to those commitments at every point of interaction.”
Yaman iterates, “A few changes are already in existence now (like a new normal). All menus have gone digital, contactless payment has now become a fortifying element. Moreover, the pandemic has uplifted the parameter of health awareness in our day to day life. So a lot of emphasis on healthy eating, calorie count and innovative food look out is expected.”
Sandeepraj says, “I believe that the current situation has brought some drastic changes in the way people dine out and the way we serve our guests, who are now becoming more well-versed with technology and touchless payment. We have seen guests adapt to QR based menu which changes everything about the experience. People see the menu differently, and restaurants now have the option to present the items in a better and lucrative way.
“Covid 19 has introduced the restaurant industry technologies to manage bookings, deliveries, dining and payments in a more integrated way. This could, possibly cause a permanent change in the working of restaurants.”
Vicky states, “We see this as an opportunity for India to improve the overall hygiene standards for dining. The entire restaurant industry and the staff is now automatically trained to follow strict hygiene guidelines, which is great for our industry.”
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