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How retail and hospitality sectors can best prepare for reopening during Covid-19

Hospitality worker serving a lady behind the bar, taken from iHASCO's Food Safety and Hygiene online training course

This blog has been updated to reflect the recent Government update, which eases the lockdown rules, from the 4th July 2020.

Businesses in retail and hospitality sectors now have to face the challenges of resuming business head on. With a welcomed easing of the lockdown, many non-essential retailers have already opened their doors and the government has now confirmed that pubs, restaurants and hotels will be able to reopen on the 4th July 2020 (3rd July for Northern Ireland).  

There are numerous considerations that need to be made to keep staff and the public safe. Maintaining social distancing guidelines and implementing health and safety measures will be challenging in the usually busy hospitality and retail environments. 

With concerns over job losses and unused stock, many are sympathetic to the devastation the pandemic has had on these industries, with trade declining and in some cases at a complete stop since the lockdown. Those in these sectors have had several months to contemplate what the future of their businesses will look like. As well as learning from the essential shops and hospitality businesses that have adapted to a new normal by focussing on online deliveries and takeaways, government guidance is also shaping their future. However what is important now is getting these industries up and running, not only to protect them but also people’s jobs and the wellbeing of the wider community. 

Having confirmation of the reopening date is a real boon and affords businesses some time to make the necessary preparations.
Our sector was one of the first to be seriously affected and we are going to be one of the last to reopen.
Getting venues open again, even with social distancing measures in place, is the best way to secure businesses and jobs.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality

Getting hospitality and retail employees back safely

Since the government lockdown, many staff in these industries have been furloughed. And whilst businesses have been working towards reopening, they have had to wait for the go-ahead from the British government. Non-essential retailers in England opened their doors from the 15th June 2020 (12th June in Northern Ireland), and the hospitality industry have now received confirmation of a reopening date, including an amendment to the social distancing rule. With less than 2 weeks to reopening, it is now possible for hospitality businesses to determine if they are able to fully open, or in some cases only offer a limited service, or even change unused areas to seating. Also with the uncertainty of sales, opening is going to be a gradual process, with many businesses having to take each day as it comes and potentially only bringing back a few staff to test the water.

As reported by the BBC, according to The Sunday Times, Business Secretary Alok Sharma warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson that as a result of the Coronavirus lockdown, 3.5 million jobs are at risk in the hospitality sector. Equally the British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported that non-food shops had lost £1.8bn in sales each week as a result of the lockdown. These statistics cause concerns for the future of many retailers and hospitality businesses. 

On top of that, furloughed staff may be anxious about returning to work. They may have many questions such as, what will their workplace look like? Will their duties be different? And how will they be protected from the risk of infection from Covid-19? Bringing staff back from furlough is just another vital part of the plan for resuming business. Ongoing discussions with these employees and getting their feedback will also help their transition.

Staff are key and getting their support and building their confidence to return could make all the difference to getting back to business safely and smoothly. 

Keeping staff and customers safe

As a starting point, many in the industry will have completed a Covid-19 risk assessment. You can read more about the importance of risk assessments in planning a safe return to the workplace here. But this is key to identifying what steps a business needs to take to manage and reduce the risk of infection from Covid-19. It covers who is at risk, the level of risk and identifies control measures to ensure the safety of those identified. This will be employees, customers and include any visitors (such as those carrying out maintenance) to your site.

You can use this free tool to create your own Covid-19 risk assessment.

Many of the high street chains have already reopened and businesses in the hospitality industry have talked about how they plan to stage a reopening, including what safety measures they will introduce. With government guidance and some businesses already implementing ‘covid-secure’ policies it is possible to see what the retail and hospitality environments might look like.

The hospitality environment:

  • Safety screens will be installed at counters/tills
  • Staff will wear PPE - this could include face masks, visors and gloves
  • Reduced menus will be offered to customers
  • Take away food/drink items may be the only option for smaller establishments
  • Trays will be used to serve drinks to tables
  • Hand sanitising dispensers will be installed at entrances and throughout the premises
  • Depending on the size of the site there may be separate entrance and exit points
  • Employees may be required to have their temperature taken before starting their shift
  • Staff may be given specific duties to ensure social distancing is being adhered to but instructions would be given to these employees by their employer
  • Floor stickers will mark out 2 metre distances (In England, as of the 4th of July 2020, the two metre social distancing rule has been replaced by a one metre social distancing rule. People are advised to keep a "one metre plus" distance rule in places where two-metres are not possible)
  • Signage would inform customers about adhering to social distancing
  • Implementation of regular cleaning schedules for shared surfaces such as counters and door handles
  • Contactless/cashless payments preferred
  • Table service for customers only indoors
  • Contact details will be collected from customers (to support contact tracing if an outbreak of the Coronavirus occurs)
  • Venues can make use of ‘unloved’ spaces such as car parks for beer gardens
The tills at an M&S store, with perspex screens and hand sanitiser, with a customer waiting to be served by the assistant
The revised checkout in Marks & Spencer, Credit: Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror

The retail environment:

  • Hand sanitiser dispensers will be available at the entrance as well as throughout the store and at tills for customers and employees
  • Metal baskets only available for shoppers
  • Cleaning stations will be implemented
  • Additional space created by removing rails/displays to help with social distancing
  • Floor stickers will mark out 2 metre distances (In England, as of the 4th of July 2020, the two metre social distancing rule has been replaced by a one metre social distancing rule. People are advised to keep a "one metre plus" distance rule in places where two-metres are not possible)
  • Shop signage will indicate social distancing rules
  • Some shop services may be closed
  • Fitting rooms will be closed
  • Limited product demonstrations
  • Contactless/cashless payments encouraged
  • Shop assistants may be wearing PPE
  • Perspex screens will be installed at till points or help desks
  • A rigorous cleaning schedule will be introduced throughout the store for self service areas, tills and surfaces
  • Items touched by customers but not bought will be removed from sale for a number of days before being returned to the shelves
  • Customer numbers will be limited at any one time
  • Shoppers will be encouraged to go alone
  • Queuing and one way systems may be implemented
  • Amended opening hours

What does the reopening look like for certain stores/chains?

The Guardian reports how Selfridges plans to offer entertainment for those queuing outside in the form of a DJ, out of hours shopping services, as well as increasing their online services by offering virtual beauty appointments. Selfridges have decided to have some changing room facilities open to customers and will steam clean items that have been tried on but not purchased. If they cannot be steam cleaned they will be off the shelf for 3 days. Shoppers will not be prevented from browsing but strict cleaning of surfaces will be adhered to. Tester pots in beauty halls will not be available but instead demonstrated by assistants from a safe distance. Staff will be able to wear a mask if they wish and temperature checks will be carried out before they start work. Certain staff will be solely responsible for ensuring the number of customers in the store is in line with social distancing and queues formed when required.

Wetherspoon details how it plans to reopen its chains across the UK and Ireland. It involves customers ordering from an app at their table to remove the need to visit the bar area and handle cash. It will use a screen between tables where it is not possible to adhere to the social distance requirement and there will be many hand sanitiser dispensers on site for the use of staff and customers. Employees can choose to wear PPE, including eye protection wear. Condiments will only be available in sachets, signage will be put up throughout the premises and one way systems and separate entrance and exit points will be allocated. Full training will be provided to staff on how things will work.

Managing the workplace

Guidelines for reopening shops have been produced by The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Usdaw and they give the following advice to ensure staff are protected and aware of any new measures.

• Ensure all staff are aware of the social distancing measures that are in place and trained on how they should support these measures being observed. Remind staff that social distancing applies in all areas of the store, including non-customer facing areas.
• Regular and visible written or verbal communication of the government messages.
• Frequent reminders using the following:
- Additional signage to ask staff not to turn up for work if they have symptoms.
- Written communication.
- Posters and signage.
- Daily reminders to all staff via noticeboard and/or intranet.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Usdaw

The FSA have produced a guide to reopening and adapting your food business during Covid-19 and it specifically includes a checklist regarding the reopening, including further information on social distancing and general guidance. 

Online training solutions

Despite many staff still on furlough and doubts over their exact return dates, retail and hospitality businesses can start to prepare and support their workers for returning. Offering training can be a simple but effective way to transition them back to the workplace and they can still complete courses whilst furloughed, as long as their furlough wage doesn’t take their salary to less than minimum wage. After some time out of the workplace refresher training is going to be welcomed by employees, and as it is online it can be completed at a time that is convenient for them. This will also help demonstrate your commitment to your staff, and when they return they will hopefully be more confident and motivated to hit the ground running. 

The top online courses for the retail and hospitality sector

Some of the most popular online courses that iHASCO offer the hospitality and retail industry include the following:

Food Safety and Hygiene Training - Level 1, Level 2 and HACCP

The Level 1 course will provide a complete refresher for anyone who works where food is made, sold or served. It will provide a solid understanding of food safety and hygiene such as keeping work areas clean, reducing contamination and identifying key food safety issues. Level 2 is also suitable for those who are involved in the preparation or handling of food and includes further detailed knowledge of food safety. In addition HACCP training is relevant to all businesses that produce, handle, retail or distribute consumable products, and they are legally required to implement HACCP as a food safety management system. Providing food safety training will ensure that once employees are back to work a good level of food safety and hygiene is maintained, which must form part of the plan for achieving continued business success.

Bar Staff Training (Working in Licensed Premises)

With many pubs reopening and serving drinks to be consumed in outside spaces only it is time to remind staff about the age verification process and how to refuse to serve someone. The sale and supply of alcohol must be controlled in line with the alcohol licensing law, so ensure your staff have the knowledge to comply with legislation.

Customer Service Training

Providing good customer service is vital to your business. Therefore it makes sense to equip your staff with the necessary skills to handle customer concerns, and turn them around to ensure a positive experience. Excellent customer service will help your business stand out from the crowd. 

Returning to Work (during & after) Covid19

This course will help prepare your staff for a return to the workplace by providing simple steps and guidance to ease them into a new normal. It’s natural to have some concerns, but it’s how the return is handled that can make all the difference, both to the employee and your organisation. Therefore this training will provide staff with the confidence to return and go towards easing any anxieties they may have.

Infection Prevention & Control

Businesses and individuals across all industries have an important role in preventing the spread of infection, as well as a duty as it falls under health and safety at work. It looks at types of infections, how they spread and who’s at risk. It considers what you can do to prevent the spread of infections, including hand washing, using PPE appropriately, disposing of waste safely and keeping your environment clean. This knowledge will give staff the confidence to return and understand how to protect themselves and others from the spread of infection.

Mental Health Awareness Training

The Covid-19 pandemic has raised concerns for the nation's mental health and wellbeing. Therefore providing tools and guidance for daily wellbeing-management will help employees recognise when themselves or those around them may be struggling with mental-ill health. This course came 1st in Tomorrow’s Health & Safety Awards 2020, so it comes highly rated.

Fire Awareness

Your staff legally require fire awareness training but after some time out of the workplace it is a good idea to offer refresher training. Around 70% of businesses fail within 3 years of a major fire. Bringing fire awareness to the forefront will ensure staff are more vigilant and can remind themselves how to react in an emergency.

Manual Handling Training

Working in the retail and hospitality sectors often means that employees have to move heavy objects around, such as tables & deliveries, which can be dangerous without knowing best practices. Our course explains the importance of safe manual handling, using the 'LITE' and 'TILE' lifting techniques.

Let iHASCO help you

If you think iHASCO’s online courses could help your business please register for a free trial. The online certified courses can be completed from a number of devices including laptops and mobile phones, and a certificate is awarded upon completion. Cost effective bundle rates are available so you can pick and choose the courses that are right for you and your staff. You can chat to one of our helpful team members to see how you can make online training work for your business. 

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