We appreciate that many catering businesses are closed during the imposed lockdown and social distancing periods. As life returns to normal however, there are some good practices that we feel should be continued.
There has been a strong focus on washing our hands in recent months - not just for catering businesses but for everyone in the wider community. The message to the public has been clear: wash your hands for a full 20 seconds using soap or hand sanitiser. But what should the advice be for anyone in the business of handling food?
Keeping preparation and cooking areas clean isn’t something new but at Ramsay Todd, we believe that the current circumstances require new and stricter measures. Last year we knew nothing about COVID-19, but with the world’s best researchers and scientists studying the virus, our understanding of how COVID-19 spreads is expanding.
We know, for example, that the virus can survive on different materials such as door handles, mobile phones and other surfaces for several hours. If somebody touches a kitchen utensil that someone who has the virus touched recently then, if the right precautions aren’t taken, the risk of catching the disease is greatly increased.
As tools and appliances are shared widely and there is a lot of handling of things within a catering business, the need to take precautions is even greater.
Here is some advice to help your business take the right safety measures:
Review your processes (and documentation)
The first thing to do is to review your cleaning processes thoroughly. Leave no stone unturned as you review each part of your process to make sure that you are in line with the latest government research and guidelines. If extra stages are needed to wash down equipment or dispose of equipment or packaging, then include them in the process straight away and ensure all your staff are fully trained in the new procedures.
Clean, clean and clean
The possible damage to your brand and the risk to lives is too great to work on the assumption that a quick clean is sufficient. If there is any doubt on what should be cleaned and when, then do cleaning anyway. Also reduce the sharing of equipment between employees. Having several employees sharing the same kitchen utensils increases the risk of spreading any viruses.
Communicate the rules intelligently
There are various ways you can communicate the importance of cleaning and any new processes, some more effective than others. At the very minimum, make sure that everyone receives an official communication that highlights what the changes are and why they are important.
Including signs in the workplace that remind people to clean properly will also help, but this has its limitations. Busy staff are more likely to ignore signs and having signs in place for long periods of time tend to be make them invisible as they become ‘part of the surroundings’. Here are some ways to ensure staff follow guidelines correctly:
- Offer training:
Providing training such as an online module that staff must pass is a great way to ensure that staff fully understand what they must do.
- Avoid negative social proof:
Research  shows that if a sign says something like ‘3 out of 10 people don’t wash their hands properly’ then psychologically, people reading the sign may think that it’s ok for them not to because 30% of people aren’t. Instead, turn the message around with wording that says, ‘7 out of 10 people wash their hands properly - and you should too!’.
- Make notices visual:
Research also shows that we respond to visual cues better than words. If you don’t want people to touch a door handle without wearing gloves then rather than using a sign with words, why not put images of scary insects or something else scary on the door? This might sound strange, but you can find out about how this might work from the article: How the Cootie Effect Can Reduce Virus Transmission 
If you haven’t already, we strongly urge you to review your processes and communicate updates to your staff. This process should be reviewed frequently in the short-term to ensure the latest findings on coronavirus are considered. If you have any questions, do get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.
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