Lessons learned for restaurants and small businesses in Stage 2

So the Stage 2 reopening continues across Canada. More so in a haphazard manner rather than a seamless rollout. Mandatory mask mandates are inconsistent across jurisdictions. As well, there seems to be a reluctance on the part of local governments to make new COVID-19 guidelines mandatory. I spoke earlier in the week about why I thought adding these new guidelines into public health criteria is important. Here in Halton region however, the public health unit has made it abundantly clear that it will not be inspecting local restaurants or businesses for adherence to COVID-19 guidelines.

So that leaves small businesses on their own to ensure public safety as we reopen our economy. Personally I think its a tall order to put on the backs of small business owners, but here we are. What this means for restaurants and other small businesses, is that it is now incumbent on them to ensure the public has confidence that their safety is now the owners top priority. Unsurprisingly, it has lead to some confusion amongst the public as businesses adapt to a new business model.

Take for example this post from a local Burlington restaurant:

This is now common amongst busy restaurants as people who might normally patron their establishments are concerned about their safety. While indeed, restaurants are no doubt trying their best to ensure safety criteria are met. Public confidence can be shaky. While we reopen, a guarantee that local public health units are doing their regular inspections with new COVID-19 safety guidelines added to the list would help assuage these fears. Yet that is not the case.

So what should restaurants or small businesses do to win back public confidence? I suggest you take a page from the playbook of the Burlington Rotary Club’s Annual Ribfest. Conveniently called Canada’s Largest Ribfest. The event is usually held at the end of the summer at a popular local park. The park is closed for thousands of people to normally walk amongst rib and food vendors, enjoying BBQ and music. All proceeds went to numerous local not for profits and charities. It’s a staple of Burlington life. And it was shut down due to COVID-19. That is to say until they rebranded it as a drive in event.

Going to their website you can see exactly how they remodeled their event to put public safety as their top priority. There is a complete guide to how they operate to put the public’s safety first. Including a map and ordering procedure here:

Canada’s Largest Ribfest COVID-19 contingency plan

I drove by last night to see how this approach would work. Whether or not it would be a success for the charity event. This is what I saw:

The line up just to get into the parking lot
The start of the parking coral to pick your vendor
Burlington loves their ribs!

The lesson to be taken away from this is: people will reward your business if you promise to take their safety seriously. Just saying you’ve met the minimum won’t cut it, especially when your competitor is demonstrating that they have gone out of their way to adjust their business to accommodate their patrons. Business needs to re-establish the public’s confidence that is safe to go out now. The government isn’t willing to do it any more.

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