COVID-19 Related Mandates & Hospitality Conflict De-Escalation

Covid 19 Mandates Conflict DeEscalation
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The September 16th incident involving a hostess being physically attacked by tourists at Carmine’s restaurant due to a proof of vaccination request as part of New York City’s mandate, was a stark reminder of how easily such encounters within the hospitality industry could escalate to a hostile situation.

As local and federal COVID-19 related mandates such as this evolve and pandemic related stressors mount, incidents such as this one have highlighted the need for hospitality business owners and operators to stay in front of potential conflict scenarios that could escalate to aggression or violence.

Preparing your hospitality business to prevent and respond to potential conflicts and escalations toward aggressive behavior can be accomplished by planning ahead with a comprehensive and risk-appropriate plan, including a combination of physical and administrative controls.

For example, basic physical controls and clear, concise communications to customers using signage and floor markings can help prevent confusion and conflict. Physical barriers can guide people’s movement and ensure adherence to social distancing needs while helping manage flow through spaces. Touchless services can also eliminate potential contamination points and possible conflict and even improve customer experience. Administrative controls like clear policies, response procedures, and staff awareness training for conflict prevention and de-escalation can go a long way toward preventing and managing conflict.

Instituting Physical and Administrative Controls

A strategic combination of physical and administrative controls in a publicly accessible space is critical to prevent and manage conflicts. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Atosa USA
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • Imperial Dade
  • Inline Plastics
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • Epiq Global Payment Card Settlement
  • Easy Ice
  • McKee Foodservice Sunbelt Bakery
  • AHF National Conference 2024
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • RATIONAL USA
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • RAK Porcelain
  • Day & Nite

Assess physical space and risk

Determine the best layout for your physical space that will reduce bottlenecks, slow the flow of customers, or create possible points of conflict. Consider a one-directional entry and exit flow and identify places where people may naturally congregate. Do a dress rehearsal to test your solutions. Enlist a few non-employees to help you determine if it is as clear as you think it is. Assessing new processes before opening your doors to the masses can prevent many potential problems.

Foolproof communications and on-site signage

Your process should be clear to anyone who calls to inquire, visits your website, or walks in. This is particularly true at the point of sale. Consider flexible options for pay and pickup. If online payment and pickup is an option, utilize it. Make sure your website and social media channels clearly reflect information about your new rules and procedures. If you have a pre-recorded message on your phone service, communicate any updated policies and procedures there as well to avoid confusion. Consider the best ways to implement signage and floor markings to promote clarity around interior and exterior lines and movements.

Update your emergency action plan

You have likely managed aggressive or disruptive patrons before, and you have certainly had at least one “no shirt, no shoes, no service” type of dispute before COVID-19 emerged. Now is the time to review your plan for these types of incidents and get it ready for action. Review the possible points of conflict and consider appropriate responses for staff and managers. All staff should be prepared to contact a manager, security, or police as appropriate if a conflict escalates toward aggression and violence or becomes disruptive for other patrons. Remind workers that they may be trained in respectful communication and de-escalation strategies, but they do not have to stay in harm’s way. Disengaging, creating distance, and contacting a manager or seeking support from other staff is their best option if things escalate beyond their comfort level.

Train your staff to ensure a smooth customer experience

Equipping your staff to work safely and enforce new rules such as mask requirements and the vaccination mandate respectfully can also increase the likelihood that your customers have a smooth and conflict-free experience. Train your staff on the new processes and empower them to take the actions you have decided are appropriate should they need to enforce a rule or de-escalate a situation. Double down on the customer service mindset, customer-focused de-escalation training can prevent conflict and ensure your staff is empathetic and using communication strategies that do not promote a conflict.

Security risk management and business continuity programs have never been more critical. Taking proactive steps can help prevent and manage conflict, protect your business, and help customers and staff stay safe and healthy.

  • Atosa USA
  • Easy Ice
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • RATIONAL USA
  • Day & Nite
  • Inline Plastics
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • McKee Foodservice Sunbelt Bakery
  • RAK Porcelain
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • Imperial Dade
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • Epiq Global Payment Card Settlement
  • AHF National Conference 2024