Retail, barbers, salons and restaurants:
Congratulations! Gov. Doug Ducey allowed you to reopen for in-person business (with social distancing guidelines).
But now how are you going to do it?
A great resource is WESTMARC’s April 30 webinar: “What are the best practices for reopening?”
Though it came just before Ducey’s announcement, the panelists clearly felt the vibe that restrictions would be loosened—and offered tips for getting back to business safely.
Christina Oh, CEO for Abrazo West Campus, was optimistic and appreciative. “Despite the fact there is a ‘COVID cloud’ over the world, hospitals are learning what it’s like to be part of a community. … We have been showered with gifts; we’ve been showered with more food than our bellies can handle,” she said.
After expressing her gratitude for community support, Oh shared four areas of Abrazo focus that she said general businesses can use:
• “Be unapologetic about protecting your stakeholders. For Abrazo, that meant stocking up on personal protective equipment. We haven’t had a single employee that has tested positive because of exposure at work,” she said.
• “Be data driven.” Oh referred the webinar audience to the website covid19.healthdata.org, which Oh said shows Arizona reached a COVID-19 peak April 22.
• “Be very transparent.” Oh admitted at Abrazo West, “We were not super public” with the first COVID-19 cases. Now, she said, “We send a nightly email to employees and physicians telling them exactly how many positive patients we have in house. … People will give you grace for being very transparent about your thought processes.”
• “Be prepared to operate in a new normal.” For Abrazo, part of that means testing every person a few days before an elective procedure.
After Oh’s upbeat talk, Steve Churi, executive director of the Arizona Restaurant Association, was relatively gloomy.
The pandemic, he said, “has been devastating. This has eviscerated our restaurant industry.”
With in-restaurant dining banned during Arizona’s peak spring season, “Our restaurants are losing between $25 and $30 million per day.”
But, he stressed, public trust in restaurants will help the food industry bounce back quickly.
“We are held to a higher standard when it comes to hygiene,” Churi said.
He cited a national poll that said the thing people missed most during isolation is going out to restaurants.
“With that trust comes responsibility,” he said. “The safety of our customers is going to be job one.”
Even before state guidelines for restaurants were sent out, Churi said to expect food-service staff to wear masks and gloves.
“Restaurants will look different, but we’re still going to provide the service we’re known for,” he said.
He thinks restaurants will set up systems to text people when tables are ready, “So maybe they’ll wait in their cars instead of in the lobby.”
And, Churi said, a nearly touchless device servers can bring to settle bills at tables “will be here very soon.”
The summer doldrums may not be so bad for restaurants this year, Churi predicted.
“You’ll have more Arizonans staying in town this summer,” he said. “And we’re going to promote staycations.”
Sintra Hoffman, CEO of WESTMARC, put things in a big-picture perspective a few days after the webinar.
“People are ready to return to ‘the new normal’ business,” she said.
“But safe, sanitary practices will be key for resuming consuming confidence. Testing, continued responsible social distancing and hygiene will be key to keeping new cases low and gaining economic traction.”