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How to safely reopen your small business during the COVID-19 pandemic

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There is obviously a lot of concern and confusion over how best to reopen small businesses across the country right now. To help shed some light on how to do it right, I called in the pros.

Dr. Jeff Anderson is a food safety and sanitation consultant for P&G Professional, the away-from-home division of Procter & Gamble (I previously created content for P&G Professional.) Dr. Anderson’s primary responsibilities include helping P&G Professional customers mitigate public health risk factors within their operations using science-based strategies.

I also spoke with Ryan Gromfin, also known as The Restaurant Boss, a consultant who has helped restaurants build their businesses. He is an author, speaker, chef and restauranteur.

Q: What advice would you give to small businesses about COVID-19 and reopening?

Anderson: We are going to be working through this pandemic for some time still, so you have to continue to mitigate risk factors in your business. Wear masks. Wash hands. Continue social distancing. Clean. Our research indicates that two-thirds of guests in stores and restaurants expect to see employees with face masks on.

Similarly, you need to make cleanliness easy and convenient for customers. For example, have hand sanitizer and disinfectant easy to see and readily available.

Q: How often should businesses be cleaning, with what, and what should they clean?

Anderson: You want to look for products that are EPA-approved against COVID. (P&G Professional has several, as do other companies.)

So, first, follow the instructions on the label. And beyond that, we tell restaurants that that they should be cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces every hour, even every half hour. These are areas like doorknobs, counters, tables, and menus.

It is important to be obvious about your cleaning; customers need to see that. In fact, according to our research, 70% of guests want to see more thorough and constant cleaning.

Gromfin: Signage can also be very helpful: “This area has been disinfected” is something customers like to see.

Q: Ryan – And what about restaurants? Is it a problem having employees touch your food?

Gromfin: I am not a doctor, but it is important to remember that COVID is a respiratory virus. Touching is less an issue. As such, breathing on food would be more of a concern, and that is why mask wearing is so important.

And, generally speaking, local health ordinances prevent employees from directly touching food that someone will consume.

Q: What are some common mistakes businesses are making/have made as they fight COVID?

Anderson: A common mistake is people not wearing masks correctly. Managers should be taught proper mask-wearing technique and they should then train their staff. Be sure to reinforce how important it is to wear a mask correctly.

Gromfin: Whatever you do, don’t bury your head in the sand. This is the new normal. You can’t wait for things to ‘go back the way they were’ because they are not going to anytime soon. Instead, you need to make proper investments: Buy plexiglass, do curbside, create signage, clean. This is the way things are now, and don’t pretend it’s going back.

Q: Anything else we should know?

Anderson: We are going to be at this for a while, so you need to continue to be prepared. We suggest having a month of supplies on hand – personal protective equipment, soap, disinfectant – that sort of thing.

You need to be ready for the next wave.

Steve Strauss is an attorney, popular speaker and the best-selling author of 17 books, including “The Small Business Bible.” 

The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.


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