Posted: 01/07/2020

Focus on customer and staff safety as in-store footfall increases

As more consumers return to bricks-and-mortar retail, customer and staff safety remains paramount for independent food shop owners given the continued threat of coronavirus.

FFD speaks to four retailers about their experiences and lessons learned as they return to more normal trading conditions.

Steven Salamon,
Wally’s Delicatessen,

At first, we opened for three days a week for just two hours in the middle of each day and got our online business up and running again.

We have introduced a one way system marked out with arrows and distance markers throughout the store, we’ve moved fixtures around to allow for a better flow of the one-way system, and we, fortunately, had an extra door that we didn’t previously use that we’ve opened up so we have a separate entrance and exit.

I decided to remove our self-service olive bar, as it is too high risk, and our ice-cream and chocolate counter, as I was unsure about stocking too many perishables.

Simon MacDonnell,

We reopened on June 2nd and since then we’ve been very busy. Trade has been as expected ‘pre-COVID’.

Since reopening, we only allow four customers in the store at one time, have a one-way system and a sign requesting that they sanitise their hands as they come in the door and that they wear masks, but that’s not mandatory. 

We looked at the store and have tried to take away things that are time consuming, because obviously only having four customers at any one time we need to cut down on things that take too long. We are not doing hot food that customers have to wait for and we took away our meat slicer, so we increased our range of pre-sliced meat and pre-cut cheeses so people can just spot them and grab them. Strangely, we have seen an increase in sales of meats now they are pre-sliced.

We’re quite a small store, around 800 sq ft, so four in the shop with a queue outside is not a bad volume of people.

John Siddall,
The Fine Cheese Co.,
Bath & London

The main problem is that customers can’t browse under the conditions in the shop, they just stand rigid in one spot.

We’re installing sneeze guards so we can start to sample cheese but whether people will want to try it is a different matter.

For those businesses that have cafés, everything seems to be up in the air. For example, will we be able to open loos? It sounds silly but things like that are really important for any deli-café and its customers.

Emma Mosey,
Minskip Farm Shop,

To start with people were free to move around as they wish, but then we were only allowing three people in the shop at once. Now we have new screens up between till points we have more of a one-way flow to the shop, but it is not strict. It’s more about common sense than anything else. 

We are still restricting numbers in the shop, but it’s safer now with the screens up. We are happy as long as people are keeping their distance from one another.

When we put the new screens up it made customer service a lot easier as people can come right up to the till. The main thing for us, though, was making sure staff morale was up and that they were happy and felt safe to be in the shop, as that obviously makes a big difference. Our customer service is really important to us, and that has always started with the staff being happy because if the staff are happy then it’s a natural thing.

Read the latest edition of Fine Food Digest here.

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