The run-up to Christmas and New Year is one of the busiest times of the year for restaurants and party venues. Many will be running at near capacity with high levels of advanced bookings let alone increased numbers just dropping in on the day. Any disruption to the restaurant’s normal operations will likely have a bigger impact now than during quieter periods.
But this is also the time of the year when seasonal illnesses such as Influenza and Norovirus are at their peak. The colder weather allows the viruses that cause these illnesses to thrive and people are generally spending more time indoors, closer together, which makes it easier for illnesses to spread.
Restaurants need to protect themselves against the risk of these illnesses. Diversey’s “Are You Ready?” campaign helps provide the information and advice to do just that.
Let’s look at some of the risks.
Lost Business: any outbreak has the potential to cause lost revenues. Losing one or two covers or bookings will be annoying but anything which causes the kitchen to close will be disastrous. In the most extreme cases, the restaurant can be forced to close until the cause of an outbreak is eliminated.
Bad Publicity: the Christmas period is critical for many restaurants. Any outbreak – or even the suggestion of an outbreak – can be bad news at the best of times. But this is especially so during the peak season when many people are holding special events and parties. Bad publicity whether through word-of-mouth, social media, booking and review websites, or in the mainstream media will deter diners from visiting or returning. This can cause long-lasting damage to the restaurant’s reputation which can be hard to win back.
Staff Shortages: if employees become ill they will need time off work. At this time of the year that can be bad news because it won’t be easy to find temporary replacements at short notice, especially if the person is highly skilled or experienced. Staff shortages place additional pressure on remaining employees during an intense period. This raises the risk of corners cut and mistakes made that can impact on good service and the reputation of the restaurant. On top of this, staff who become ill can also spread their infections to colleagues and customers before they show any symptoms. This makes it doubly important to ensure all staff follow the best possible personal hygiene and food safety practices to minimise the risk of becoming ill.
Restaurants quite rightly take food safety seriously at all times of the year. But during the peak Christmas and New Year season, additional vigilance will help provide the maximum protection against the risks. There is a clear and established link between the spread of illnesses, personal hygiene and surface cleaning. Around 80 per cent of illnesses are spread by personal contact or by touching a contaminated surface or object. Here are a few simple infection prevention steps for restaurants and their teams to help avoid the risk of catching and spreading illnesses:
- Make sure staff understand the risks of seasonal illness
- Make sure staff understand the correct processes and products to use for each food safety task
- Always wash hands when switching between handling raw and cooked foods and ingredients
- Always wash hands after visiting the toilet
- Always wash hands when entering the kitchen
- Sanitise food preparation surfaces whenever switching between handling raw and cooked ingredients
- Always clean table-tops before each new group of guests
- Clean frequent-touch items such as door handles, serving equipment touched by staff and diners, touchscreens, payment terminals and so on as often as possible
- Use food-suitable hand hygiene products with no perfumes and proven infection capabilities
- Use hand hygiene products that are suitable for frequent use
- Use surface sanitisers suitable for kitchen use and with proven performance
- Keep a spill kit in a convenient location to deal with body spills quickly, easily and professionally so as to protect guests and employees