Some of the adaptations we've had to make to weather the pandemic as an industry are here to stay — and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

According to an Essity COVID survey, 60 percent of consumers now have higher expectations of restaurant hygiene, and with off-premise numbers still up and rising, it's important to extend the sanitation focus beyond the dining room and into your takeout bags and delivery systems.

Talk the Talk

Okay, so you probably already have a great system in place: You sanitize the counter in between pickups. You offer curbside delivery so customers don't have to enter the building, then you have the guest keep the pen they sign their credit card slip with. Boom! You're doing it right, but do your customers — or more importantly – do future customers know that?

Use social media posts to give frequent updates on your safety practices. Consider even tying your brand to the hygiene products themselves, like putting your logo on individually-wrapped wipes, so your business is automatically linked with cleanliness in guests' minds. Diners aren't just checking online for menus to see where they want to spend their money. These days, they want to know who they and their families are safest with. Make sure they know it's with you.

It's in the Bag

The takeout bag is where your guests are going to decide if you've delivered not only delicious food, but on those high standards for hygiene. The first way to ease their minds is to clearly show that their order stayed sanitary in transit. Try a sticker (with your logo on it, remember?) that says "Sealed for Safety". Next, make sure you've included not only individually-wrapped utensils and napkins, but also individual sanitizer wipes. It shows guests you care and are anticipating their needs; not everyone will have supplies on the go.

Lastly, include a small flyer in each bag that clearly communicates your health and safety protocols. Take the opportunity to ask for feedback on anything you could do to make the experience even better for them. That way they can dig in knowing their health is at the top of your list.

Deliver the Goods

While third-party delivery apps are still a hit with diners, leaving delivery in another business's hands means that doing your research is essential in ensuring the proper precautions are taken for your customers. Make sure the third party is following protocols your business aligns with so any poor practices don't reflect back onto you. As far as your own drivers, set them up for success. Provide plenty of sanitizer, wipes, and multiple masks they can keep in the vehicle with them. Make it clear on your website, social platforms, (and bag flyers!) that your drivers sanitize in between every drop off. For extra comfort, offer diners the option to pay ahead online and receive a drop-off text if they'd rather not interact face-to-face at their door. By taking a few simple steps, you will ensure guests feel safe dining on- or off-premise with you, and that's an experience they'll definitely seek to repeat.

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