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Hospitality Minnesota Report: Proactive Ideas for Coronavirus

One old adage says, “when things go wrong, don’t go with them.” It can be hard to follow these days. Another says, “chance favors the prepared mind.” Preparation is one thing you can control, and it is the only way to face down COVID-19.

As the Coronavirus spreads, finding its way to Minnesota, our industry faces significant challenges. On the front line of connection and community, hospitality businesses will feel the sharp impact of cancellations, closures and quarantines. 

At the same time, we can demonstrate leadership in public health and business continuity.

There is a lot of information on how best to prevent further spread. Thorough handwashing; covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; and staying home when unwell are at the core of messaging from the Centers for Disease Control and the Minnesota Department of Health. None of this is news to us. These protocols are our standard operating procedures.

Now, though, we need to take aggressive measures to keep our businesses clean and sanitary and to help each other stay healthy. Reviewing and strengthening current practices is the first step. Communicating those to our customers to calm their concerns and provide assurance that it’s safe to continue eating out is the second. Set a high bar and meet it, and then let your customers know you’re doing so in order to serve them.

Preparation extends to business continuity by planning to weather this storm and come out stronger. Here are a few things we’re advising our members to consider:

Assign someone to track developments in preventing and controlling the spread. Visit www.hopsitalityminnesota.com for frequent updates and links to useful industry resources.

Keep your people informed by sharing resources and updating them on steps you’re taking to manage the situation—on both the health and safety and business management fronts.

Place posters where they’ll be seen that encourage staying home when sick as well as outline cough and sneeze etiquette and hand hygiene.

Provide alcohol-based hand rubs, tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles. Instruct employees to clean hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash them with soap and water (preferred method) for at least 20 seconds. 

Frequently clean all touched surfaces in the workplace, such as menus, POS terminals, tables, chairs, counter tops and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents currently used in these areas and follow label directions. No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is currently recommended.

Train employees to recognize COVID-19 symptoms and define a process for reporting suspected illness.

Be in contact with your local health organizations (health providers and public health departments) to get familiar with local testing and reporting protocols.

Plan for dealing with a symptomatic employee or guest—sending them to the emergency room, unless an immediately life-threatening situation, is not recommended. It may contribute to the spread. They should go home and contact their healthcare provider.

Plan for how you will redistribute work if an employee becomes ill.

Review your sick-leave policy, relaxing as needed, to ensure that employees can tend to their health without risking their jobs.

Look for efficiencies that can reduce risk and save money. 

Review your sales and revenues forecasts and adjust accordingly. Booking fewer reservations to practice social distancing measures may reduce business in the short term, but allow you to stay open for the long term. 

Track all extraordinary expenditures for future emergency planning and in the event that relief becomes available through insurance coverage or low-interest loan programs.


Tell your customers what you’re doing to protect them

It’s important to reassure the public on the strict protocols restaurants follow daily. You may wish to adapt these statements offered by the National Restaurant Association:  

My business follows the strict guidelines set forth by the health department. We have more than [insert number] employees who are ServSafe certified in proper food safety handling (as applicable).

We follow the CDC’s guidance and encourage everyone—employees and customers alike—to take precautions like washing their hands often and staying home when sick. 


Look to Hospitality Minnesota for industry-wide updates and best practices. Our lodging, resort and campground colleagues are also sharing information for managing the situation. While we don’t know what the next 30, 60 or 90 days will bring, we do know that being prepared is the best hope for going right when things go wrong. 

About Hospitality Minnesota: 

Hospitality Minnesota serves more than 2,000 hospitality businesses across the state. Formed in 1958 to serve the Minnesota Restaurant Association, the Minnesota Lodging Association and the Minnesota Resort and Campground Association, Hospitality Minnesota advocates for the interests of business owners and their employees and provides opportunities for education and training to grow and strengthen the hospitality industry in Minnesota. Hospitality Minnesota is committed to helping member businesses succeed.  www.hospitalityminnesota.com 

Liz Rammer is the president & CEO of Hospitality Minnesota, which includes The Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Associations.

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