Almost every business and industry has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. But it’s safe to say that customer-facing industries, such as retail and hospitality, are among the hardest hit. Any business that revolves around in-store interactions is at risk, including:
- Restaurants and bars
- Retail stores
- And more
Because these businesses often operate on tight profit margins and rely heavily—if not entirely—on face-to-face sales with walk-in customers, they have been particularly affected. Working from home isn’t an option for employees of these businesses, and while takeout and delivery have picked up during the pandemic, removing the option for customers to walk in forces business owners to operate with smaller staffs and narrow their offerings.
There is good news: These customer-oriented businesses may be able to reconfigure their spaces in ways that allow them to continue operating and help keep their employees and customers safe.
Why Social Distancing in a Social Work Environment Is a Must
Infectious illnesses often move rapidly in work environments simply because these places are full of people working in close proximity. They share the tools they need to do their jobs as well as the space. Respiratory illnesses like the flu and the common cold travel quickly among people in the same work environment. But the novel coronavirus is more contagious—and more dangerous—than both. In one study, 26% to 32% of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus were admitted to the ICU (intensive care unit).
Another factor that makes COVID-19 even more dangerous is that a large proportion of infected people don’t show symptoms. Early studies show that 25% to 50% of people with the virus may be asymptomatic. Infected but unaware, they risk passing the virus on to people who are more vulnerable to developing a serious illness.
All of this means that customer-facing businesses have a difficult road ahead of them if they wish to stay open and keep their employees and customers safe from infection. Reducing the infection risk to an acceptable level means they must change their work environment and their workplace practices and operations. Social distancing, and all that it entails, will become an important part of the workplace.
But how can social distancing be put into practice in a retail, restaurant, or other hospitality environment? Face-to-face interactions between customers and staff are typically a key part of doing business. How can those interactions be carried out while still putting social distancing into practice?
Solutions That Put Safety First
For restaurants, grocery stores, banks, and similar businesses, structures such as sneeze guards, partitions, and screens can be used to provide the protection that social distancing requires. For businesses that rely on in-store customers, having these protections in place could be vital. Even after the worst of the pandemic is over, many people will—understandably—be wary of getting back to a normal routine, and all that it entails. As a result, they may be more willing to visit businesses that have taken the trouble to put protective measures in place, rather than those that haven’t. Physical protections provide peace of mind.
Sneeze Guards Aren’t Just for the Salad Bar
The large plexiglass screens known as sneeze guards have long been a mainstay of restaurant salad bars, deli counters in grocery stores, and other fresh food displays. They’re about to become even more popular. These thick screens are used to screen fresh food not only from coughing and sneezing, but also from handling.
Since sneeze guards are already proven fit to protect food from droplets and particles, they’re now being implemented in locations other than fresh-food counters. Big retailers, such as Walmart, Kroger, and Albertsons, have already started installing the screens to protect customers, as well as cashiers and other in-store employees. Lightweight and easily installed, sneeze guards are a great option to add protection for both workers and customers participating in point-of-sale transactions not only in retail, but for banks and other service providers too.
Partitions and Screens Allow Restaurants, Bars, and Cafés to Get Back to Business
For many businesses, point-of-sale transactions aren’t the only situations that require physical protection from the virus. In restaurants, bars, and cafés, for instance, seating arrangements may need to be adjusted to ensure appropriate distances between tables. Freestanding partitions or screens are likely to be useful in these locations. They can be designed to match the business’s design and define the seating area for each customer group, ensuring plenty of room between each table. They also serve a similar purpose as sneeze guards: block the aerosol created by coughs and sneezes from being transmitted to nearby tables.
Customers Can Wait in Line, in Safety
For banks and other service providers, sneeze guards can help protect both employees and customers during transactions. But before the transaction takes place, most customers spend time waiting in line. Partitions or screens are useful here too. They create semi-isolated spaces where individual customers can wait to be served. This may seem difficult to achieve in what is often a limited amount of space, but partitions and screens as modular units can be configured in a variety of ways. There are both freestanding and interconnected models, in a wide range of sizes. Businesses with spaces both small and large will be able to find configurations that suit their needs.
Taking Care of Business Means Taking Care of People
The global coronavirus pandemic has brought about some rapid changes. Some of these may be temporary, while others may linger or even become permanent. Businesses that hope to thrive after this difficult time will have to make some changes to keep both employees and customers safe. Those that can make those changes will be the ones that have the best chance of survival in the long term.
If you need to make temporary or permanent adjustments to your business, ProExhibits has the experience and materials to help you make it happen. Contact one of our experts at 877-606-6150 to talk about how we can help your business bounce back better than ever.