Hand-washing verification will be key in NC restaurant reopenings, expert predicts

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Although restaurants are not included in phase one of reopenings in North Carolina, one expert says now is the time for those places to find ways to restore customer confidence for when they do start having diners inside their facilities again.

When restaurants reopen under phase two, the head of Hand Washing For Life Institute says customers need to know they are safe.

“People are going to feel a little bit frightened to go out, so when your operators reopen they’ll be trying to build trust quickly,” Jim Mann said.

The retired chemist says repeated hand washing is the key to customer confidence in the post-COVID-19 era — whether it’s in the food prep area or among servers.

Mann says owners need to let customers know that hand-washing is happening frequently.

Mann believes the best way to do that is to be “as transparent as they can be.”

He cites a small Illinois restaurant chain known as Crushed Red which uses a system of signs out front for customers as well a voice recognition system for employees.

He says the employees call out when they’ve washed their hands and the system records it.

“In the back of the house there’s a screen, and on that screen are the results, so an individual worker can check and see how they are doing,” Mann said.

He says another way to let customers know about hand-washing is a simple low-tech way employed by another restaurant owner.

“This guy asked his workers to whistle every time they wash their hands,” Mann explained.

Mann says the customers hear those whistles and know their food prep staff is washing repeatedly.

He also says in the future hand sanitizer units will need to be everywhere in the restaurants.

“Instead of putting it in the back or the corner out of the way where you wash your hands, I prefer operators have customers darn near tripping over it,” Mann said. “I’d also have a sign on it to engage them, almost like an entrance to the place.”

Mann says because every restaurant is different, each one will need a solution that works best for them.

That’s why he says now is the time for restaurant owners in North Carolina to figure out the procedures or systems they’ll use to let customers know that hand-washing is happening frequently in their place of business.

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