Pandemics change just about everything. We’ve witnessed this for ourselves; over the past few months, our living rooms have become conference rooms, our kitchen tables have become classrooms, and life as we know it looks very different. With so much change, one thing has remained the same: we crave normalcy.
As business owners, your restaurants, stores, and offices have become staples in the lives of your customers. To your customers, your restaurant or store isn’t just a business; it’s Saturday date night, the place where they find graduation dresses and eat celebratory meals, and the site of countless other memories and experiences.
Your business is also a lifeline for your employees and provides them with what they need to support themselves, their families, and their loved ones. With everything that your business means to you, your staff, and your community, getting back to normal after a pandemic is of the utmost importance.
Service With a (Masked) Smile
Humans crave routine. The places we ate and shopped at were more than local businesses; they were part of who we were. When we were sick or tired, we craved the pasta from our neighborhood trattoria. When we had a bad day and needed a pick-me-up, we could almost smell the shoe section of our favorite retail store.
Then came the pandemic. Almost overnight, our favorite places became slightly scarier. Being outside meant being at risk. Shopping for shoes involved masks and hand sanitizer and temperature checks.
We are all more than ready to get back to our lives, but as your customers return, they will probably have some initial anxiety. While you can’t rid the world of viruses and pandemics, there are ways you can help your clientele feel safe and protected throughout their dining or retail experience.
Social Distancing 101
Social distancing isn’t just a preference. In many places, it’s now required and will be for the foreseeable future. When your customers walk into your store or restaurant and see how seriously you’re taking their health and safety, they will immediately feel more at ease; that makes them more likely to return. If you own a restaurant, this means you do lose some tables and a percentage of your available capacity. If you own a retail store, you’re going to face the same issues with your showroom. To free up space you have to work with, keep the top storage solutions in your area on your radar. If you have kitchen items or inventory you aren’t using every day, throw them in a temporary storage unit and use the extra space for your customers. Similarly, reopening in a pandemic will involve a lot of masks and gloves, and other protective products. To save space and have those items readily on hand (in large quantities), store excess items to save space while staying safe.
Hand Sanitizer For All
Last year, we were begging our co-workers to use some hand sanitizer after they sneezed. This year, we are begging our friends to try not to spray us in the face as they sanitize every five minutes. Things change. The pandemic has required all of us to step up our hygiene game, and we have gained strange comfort from seeing a nice, full bottle of hand sanitizer and knowing it’s available at any moment.
When you reopen your business, make sure that you have alcohol-based sanitizer available at all service points, at the entrance, and – if you own a restaurant – on all tables. These bottles will not only keep your customers and employees safe, but the mere sight of them will relax your clientele and signal to the public that you’re taking their health seriously and that you are a safe place to re-patronize. If you’re worried about where to keep all of your alcohol-based new best friends, restaurant storage is a great option that keeps needed space open while ensuring guests and staff are protected and safe.
It All Comes Down to Your Staff:
You may be the person behind the business, but your employees are the real face of your establishment. When your customers look back fondly on birthday dinners or engagement parties, they are going to think of their server and all of the waitstaff who made their favorite nights happen. Seeing your favorite server or cheerful salesperson are things that we look forward to – things we use as markers of how much normalcy we’re reincorporating into our lives.
Your staff is the heartbeat of our business. They’re also on the front lines when it comes to interacting with customers, delivery personnel, and everyone else that enters your site. To keep your team feeling appreciated, safe, and supported:
- Make sure they have access to as much PPE as they need throughout their shift. If you have a server that wants to change their gloves after every order, they should be able to, so make sure you have what you need on-hand and accessible. Again, if you’re worried about limited space, office storage is a great option to look into. Most storage companies offer temporary solutions that give you all of the benefits of storage without long-term contracts or commitments.
- Offer some new perks. Maybe it’s a nice meal before their shift or a dessert after. Maybe it’s a waist bag so they can hold their PPE and hand sanitizer as they take orders or check customers out. Work is bound to be a more anxiety-filled experience for the next few months, so try to add meaningful extras to help your employees feel valued and cared for.
- Be a safe space for conversations about their fears. Your employees need a space to ask questions about new public health guidelines and to talk about what it’s like to work through a pandemic. Be open to these conversations and be ready to support your staff, reassure them, and to ensure that they feel heard.
One last, crucial thing: take a breath. Things are going to get stressful. You will probably have the latest virus maps and stats memorized, and there are going to be a lot of moving parts. Just remember that this is all very doable. Life looks a bit different now, and we are all being forced to redefine eating out, shopping, going to the grocery store, and even going to work, but we are going to get through it and come out the other side. Your customers and your employees trust you. If you didn’t want to keep that trust, you wouldn’t be reading this blog. So we invite you to take a breath, put that mask on, and get to reopening and restoring a little slice of normalcy for some people who really need it right now.
Unfortunately, there’s no guidebook to getting back to normal after an experience like we have all just gone through (and are still going through). What we do know is that people have two basic needs right now: getting back to their lives and staying safe while doing it. While you can’t rid the world of viruses and illness, you can take steps to help your customers and your staff reclaim their daily lives in a safe, relaxed, and supportive environment.
Davida Redmond is the leader of the Marketing team of Mobile Mini; the world’s leading provider of portable storage solutions committed to providing our customers with superior services and access to a high-quality and diverse fleet.