It’s finally here, a return to some sense of normalcy with a return to our industry’s first show in a very long time.
Next month, the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) Show will take center stage. We are getting ready to send our Imperial Dade team to walk the show’s aisles in search of solutions for our customers. With that, I thought it would be interesting to share some of our priorities.
As the world looks to emerge from months of Pandemic-related hardship, we should remember that some lessons learned during COVID are here to stay for the restaurant and foodservice industry. Two priorities for the industry that will outlive the pandemic are a commitment to hygiene and to our employees. Believe it or not, these priorities go hand-in-hand.
As restaurants reopen across the country or redouble their efforts to cultivate a clean space, healthy indoor air quality is paramount to a successful business. The first and most affordable step every restaurant should take is letting in fresh air. If your air handling system brings in fresh air, that’s great. If not, it’s as simple as opening doors or windows — and fresh air is free!
The next step which will save restaurants money while keeping the air clean is by maintaining air filtration and HVAC systems routinely. Cleaning and servicing these systems on a regular basis not only improve the hygiene of a restaurant, but it avoids costly repairs and replacements while extending the lifespan of the system. Fellowes, and companies like it, produce air purifiers that, when hardwired into a restaurant, can reduce airborne particles by 99 percent. For restaurants that want a more scaled-down fix, Medify and other brands make a plug-in air purifier that can handle a small space.
The third step any business should take, and a relatively affordable one, is investing in entrance mats. I know it sounds strange and is easy to overlook. The more dirt and particles you can keep outside the door, or right at the door, the better. While it seems simple, entrance mats will prevent dirt and germs from being tracked in and will save labor costs when it comes to cleaning.
Indoor air quality, at almost any upfront cost, will contribute to a business that’s not just hygienic, but more profitable as well, and create an environment where employees want to work. If you think about your staff, air purification reduces illness, allergies and absenteeism. In an employee-driven labor market, those little steps to appeal to employees are more important than ever.
We also found that our client base has recognized that you need to attract and keep rockstar employees to implement the programs suggested on the ISSA Show education track. While the job market in years past was mainly focused on salary, today there are more factors to consider. Employees are concerned with the social aspects of the company — with emphasis on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policy — but, more than ever, employees care about health and wellness. Workers want to know that a company cares about health and culture, rather than just profits.
Likewise, customers are more fixated on cleaning practices than ever. When it comes to air purification, customers will notice when the air they breathe has been filtered and, by word-of-mouth or other means, they recognize a business that cares about cleaning. However, there needs to be a very intentional way that restaurants clean their spaces with an emphasis on education and training.
I’m also curious to see how the ISSA Show deals with this whole concept of hygiene presentation. Restaurants need to know the difference between “hygiene theater” and “visible hygiene”. Where hygiene theater is concerned with cleaning for an audience — think of the waiter smiling with a spray bottle and wiping before the solution actually has time to disinfect a surface — visible hygiene is displaying and communicating hygienic practices in a responsible way.
Central to cleaning today and fostering a health-centric environment is knowing the distinction between cleaning and disinfecting, and making sure employees know it as well. Cleaning is concerned with removing gross soil from a surface and must be done before any disinfecting process. Disinfecting is treating a “clean” surface with a chemical to reduce or eliminate pathogens. To reach the status of disinfecting there needs to be a lot of consideration. For example, most chemicals need to sit for a specific amount of time in order to disinfect, whether it’s 10 minutes, 5 minutes, or 30 seconds, and they are also tailored to specific surfaces. Read the directions on the product you are using to verify the dwell time.
Looking forward to once again walking the ISSA Show floor next month. We will be looking for ideas to pass along to you that ensure a successful and safe reopening of your operations with a focus on hygiene best practices. Our goal is to help our industry and draw customers and talented employees and, most importantly, create a healthy environment. it’s time to educate, train, and reinvigorate the value of cleanliness.