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Consumer perception of value increasingly includes cleanliness, safety

Clean tables
Photograph: Shutterstock

Consumer priorities shifted drastically over the course of the pandemic; while at one time a good value at a restaurant may have simply meant getting good food at a fair price, nowadays, the value equation includes cleanliness and sanitation as well as customer safety. If the food is inexpensive but the floors are visibly dirty and the tables unwiped, for instance, consumers may be willing to go across the street, where the food costs a bit more but there are hand sanitizing stations at the door and a visible cleaning log for the dining room.

For restaurant operators, though, putting new practices in place can feel overwhelming. What is a must, and what can be put on the backburner, at least for now? What hallmarks of sanitation are the most important for consumers—and how does that translate when it comes to labor, for instance? There are many variables to consider when planning for the future, but one thing is certain: Operators need to up their sanitation procedures, and these efforts should be visible.

What to know about consumer priorities and awareness

According to EY consumer data, seven in 10 consumers say they remain more aware of hygiene and sanitation in business nowadays, and Ecolab’s “Post-Vaccine Consumer Attitude Survey” from January 2021 found that 95% want to see as many—or more—cleaning practices in place even after the COVID-19 vaccine is widely distributed. As consumer priorities shift, operators will need to be mindful of cleaning for appearance versus cleaning for confidence—cleaning for appearance means implementing processes that ensure things look and smell clean, while cleaning for confidence means ensuring things have been properly disinfected and conveying that to the consumer.

Delivering a confident clean

When it comes to delivering a confident clean, it’s helpful to know what consumers expect. The No. 1 practice that consumers want post-vaccine, according to Ecolab’s “Post-Vaccine” survey, is for high-touch areas to be cleaned and disinfected. It’s essential to use the right tools to get that high level of disinfection, too—8 in 10 consumers say they expect businesses to use hospital-grade disinfectants. Beyond using the right products, operators should be mindful of the way they communicate new cleanliness protocols to diners. Ecolab’s survey found that 80% of consumers expect to see strict cleaning protocols, and 85% of consumers want to see visible proof of cleaning, according to Deloitte Digital research.

Communicate to consumers that effective cleaning procedures are in place—hang signage showing the intervals between cleanings and be prepared to answer questions about what public health and food safety measures have been implemented to ensure consistent safety and sanitation. Just as important, commit to ongoing training and coaching for your staff to consistently maintain clean and safe spaces.

Boosting value while boosting confidence

The last thing operators want is for returning diners to deflect to a nearby restaurant that appears to have elevated cleaning protocols. It’s critical to communicate your commitment to environment hygiene, not only to grow the confidence of valued staff but also to elevate your guests’ experience and loyalty to your restaurant.

Advancing Cleaner, Safer Practices

Ecolab Science Certified™ is a comprehensive, science-based public health and food safety program designed to help give your employees and customers confidence that your operations are committed to the highest cleaning and disinfecting practices.

To learn more about a partnership to help restaurants thrive, visit www.ecolab.com/sciencecertified.

This post is sponsored by Ecolab

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