The New Normal: Part of a new series of articles focused on restaurant recovery; issues, best practices, and process changes that will become part of everyday business going forward.
Restaurants are just beginning their long journey back. And there are a number of changes that we will see as a result. Some of these changes will be mandated by the state, local or federal government. But some changes will be made by restaurant owners to help reassure customers that it is safe to dine out again. One trend that we believe will expand is touchless restaurant equipment.
Touchless Restrooms Were a Start
Bathrooms have always had a dirty reputation. No one wants to touch faucets, soap dispensers, or door handles in a shared restaurant restroom. This isn’t new. And we have had touchless dispensers for soap and paper towels for years. Auto-flush toilets are everywhere. Motion-activated faucets have become commonplace. It is sometimes jarring to be in a restroom where you actually have to turn the knobs to get water.
But in the wake of COVID-19, public sentiment is changing a bit. According to its “Healthy Hand Washing” survey, washroom fixture manufacturer, Bradley Corporation, found that the public is heavily in favor of touchless fixtures in public restrooms. And even though this was the preference before COVID-19, American attitudes have changed fairly dramatically toward wanting touchless fixtures.
Fortunately, restrooms already have touchless options for almost every part of the potty process. From auto-flush toilets to touchless sinks & soap dispensers and motion-activated paper towel dispensers…restrooms have it covered and can serve as an example for other pieces of touchless restaurant equipment to come.
Not All Touchless is Good
There is one prominent piece of touchless restaurant equipment that may be doomed by the current crisis: The electric air hand dryer. Because the coronavirus is spread via airborne droplets, using an air dryer is probably inadvisable. According to a 2012 review from the Mayo Clinic, paper towels are a preferable solution over air hand dryers, stating:
“From a hygiene viewpoint, paper towels are superior to electric air dryers. Paper towels should be recommended in locations where hygiene is paramount, such as hospitals and clinics.”
The Door Handle Conundrum
Door handles are one of the trickiest things to handle in these situations. However, automatic doors are expensive and often impractical or impossible to retrofit into existing structures. And door handles remain a primary hotspot in the spread of bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants.
So what is a restaurant to do? Fortunately, there is a relatively easy conversion that can be added to existing doors.
Solutions such as our own Sani-Pull Reduced Contact Door Openers allow guests to use their forearm or foot to easily open doors without touching anything with exposed skin. Simply insert your forearm or foot into the sturdy metal groove. Works for both push and pull door scenarios.
This is a quick and easy way to give your customers a reduced contact option for opening doors.
Touchless Gloves are Magic
In the new normal, gloves are going to be more important than ever. But gloves can cause problems if not used correctly.
We predict that you will be seeing gloves in use in new situations. For example, serving staff may be required to wear gloves to bring food to your table. But they will likely also be required to change those gloves very frequently. And that is where the hitch may be.
Removing an old pair of gloves and putting on a new pair is typically a time-consuming process. But what if it were easy? Behold, the AeroGlove® sanitary glove dispenser from Bon Chef:
The AeroGlove® has many potential uses both for foodservice & healthcare employees but also for customers. As self-service food options begin to open back up, using a quick and easy glove solution makes a lot of sense for customers. These gloves could be used for buffets, salad bars, grocery stores, and more.
AeroGlove is a quick & easy solution for many foodservice and healthcare situations.
Speaking of Buffets & Catering
Any kind of foodservice that involves self-service has been hit extra hard in these challenging times. But necessity is the mother of invention.
Catering and buffet lines became instantly problematic due to the COVID-19 situation. There are so many shared items that require touching.
But there are already some solutions in place that can help reduce that contact. The most progressive of these options are the Motion Activated Chafers from Bon Chef. These come two shapes and sizes: A 6 Quart Round Chafer and a 9 Quart Rectangular Chafer.
With a wave of the hand, the chafer lid opens to allow access to the contents. And then after a few seconds of inactivity, the lid closes again automatically. Take a look at it in action:
This kind of innovation will likely continue as we adapt to the new normal in a variety of restaurant and foodservice scenarios.
Touchless Dispensers Will Dominate
Another thing that will change due to COVID-19 is almost anything self-service. This includes things like self-service soda machines or shared condiment dispensers.
But having to use staff time to service these needs is what led to the development of self-service options in the first place. So we would expect self-service options to survive, but in a different form. And touchless options are a great starting point.
Options like the Hoshizaki Modwater Touchless Dispenser show us the path ahead.
Thermometers for Humans
Since the advent of the COVID-19 situation, a lot of emphasis has been placed on fevers as being one of the earliest detectable signs of illness. Many businesses are now required to take the temperature of their employees before allowing them to access the workplace.
This requirement is a fairly significant development. In the past, measuring an employee’s body temperature was considered a medical examination. That came with a lot of baggage, including potential legal challenges and confidentiality requirements. The rules have been modified to allow employers to take employee temperatures because of the pandemic threat. Privacy and confidentiality rules still apply, but an employer can use an employee’s temperature as a prerequisite to being allowed entry to the workplace.
Traditional thermometers are used orally. Obviously, that’s a big problem these days. But there are touchless options. Infrared thermometers are the safest & most convenient way to check employee temperatures.
You simply point the device at the forehead and get a virtually instantaneous reading of body temperature. It’s quick and effective. And there is no contact.
Some states may require restaurant customers to have their temperatures taken before entering the business. This will make the demand for these devices skyrocket in the near term. So think about your needs in this area, sooner rather than later.
The Future of Access Control
Preventing an ill employee from entering the workplace is going to be an ongoing challenge. And, as we stated above, employers may be required to use employee temperatures to limit access to the workplace.
But that requirement can be onerous for businesses. Employees come and go. And who will be responsible for taking temperatures as employees arrive? What if they don’t get their temperature taken immediately, but are later found to have a fever? The employee will have already potentially exposed their co-workers. All around, this is a bad situation.
But new technology is on the horizon to be able to handle this situation and a whole lot more.
A new product from PopID called PopEntry+ aims to automate and streamline the process of access control and taking employee temperatures.
These small devices are mounted at the entrance. Facial recognition and temperature screening allow the business to offer a biometric solution to help employers provide a healthful, safe, and contactless work environment for their employees and customers.
See the unit in action here:
Furthermore, the PopEntry+ can be tied into the building’s door lock to restrict access based on the parameters set by the company. In addition, future features could tie the unit into a time management system so that it could also be used as a time clock.
Touchless Restaurant Equipment is the Future
During these trying times, change is coming even more rapidly than normal. But the products covered in this article are just the beginning. We fully expect new advances in touchless restaurant equipment to evolve as our industry finds its way in the new normal.
Keeping employees safe and earning the trust of customers are the keys to rebuilding successful restaurant and foodservice industries.