The Importance of Sanitation Theater for Restaurants + Hotels

  • Insights

Sanitation is a serious subject in the era of COVID-19. New standards of cleanliness and disinfection are essential components of keeping the staff and customers safe in any business. Nowhere is this more important than in restaurants and hotels as customers cautiously return to a “new normal.” Additional cleaning standards need to be implemented, PPE protocols enforced, thorough staff training must be conducted, and new technology needs to be put in place to help prevent the spread of the virus, maintain the public safety, and ensure the well-being of the staff. 

What is Sanitation Theater?

Because sanitation is crucial in the mind of the consumers coming out of the social distancing self-quarantines, we are advocating that businesses be overt in the execution of their cleaning protocols. Instead of the pre-COVID-19 strategy of keeping cleaning and sanitation practices behind the scenes and invisible to the guests, we are advocating for making cleaning protocols much more evident to guests. We call this stance “sanitation theater.”

The use of “theater” does not mean that these cleaning protocols are fake or just for show — it means, rather, that the new protocols are obvious, guest-facing, comprehensive and celebrated as a core part of the normal course of business. We are also advocating a more visible and frequent execution of these cleaning protocols to make the guest more comfortable while doing business with you. 

Understanding The Consumer Demand For Sanitation

Sanitation theater is all about making guests feel comfortable and safe coming out of the pandemic. The clearer and more transparent your business is the better. In a recent sentiment study by Dataessentials and the National Restauraunt Association of consumers coming out of the pandemic said that the number one criteria for choosing a restaurant or dining establishment right now is safety and sanitation (this is well above the variety or quality of the food or service). In the same study, 47% of the respondents said this was their number one concern. 

Beyond just being accepting of inconvenience, consumers are demanding that cleaning and social distance protocols are being followed and enforced — 85% of consumers surveyed by Dataessentials reported they want to see distances of six feet or more, and 83% reported they want to see the maximum capacities enforced. 

First, Clearly Summarize All Actions Right As The Guest Enters

Sanitation theater involves a few key actions: first, a statement at the front of your business outlining all of the steps that your business is taking to keep your guests safe. This statement will cover things like the usage of PPE and gloves for staff, monitoring staff members’ health on a daily basis, social distancing within the businesses, and new cleaning and disinfecting protocols. 

Don’t just post what is legally required, use clear and visually compelling entryway signage to cue guests to all of the ways your business is protecting their safety. Guests need to see right away that your establishment takes their safety seriously. 

Next, Provide More Details At Crucial Moments In The Guest Journey

Then you get into things like posting prominent cleaning schedules in the restrooms, adding extra staff on the floor to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, reworking your individual cleaning protocols in restaurants to include disinfecting and wiping down the chairs and underside of the tables, and adding little touches like signage and notices to let your guest know that things are clean and safe. We recently went into a restaurant that had a little note on the table saying “This Table has been Sanitized by Todd” — an added touch that connects high standards of cleanliness with the human appeal of connecting with your establishment. 

Meeting the consumer demand for sanitation is critical for restaurants and hotels — being overt about your sanitation measures to put guests at ease and ensure they’re comfortable during their visit and crucially, are comfortable returning soon. 


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