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  • Writer's pictureRicca Design Studios

COVID-19 and College & University Foodservice: Part Two - Guest Safety

Updated: May 3, 2021

Building upon last week's post which focused on food safety, Phillip Landgraf and Kerri Fitzgerald are highlighting guest safety this week. During the ongoing roundtable discussions hosted by Ricca Design Studios and Envision Strategies, many college and university dining teams have presented the challenges surrounding guest safety and shared the creative solutions that they've implemented or will be implemented on campus this fall. Read along below for creative solutions that may help to improve guest safety on your campus.

1. Reduced Meal Periods

Impact: likely temporary

Considerations: minimize the number of times per day students are in the dining hall. For example, Harvard University is only serving meals at lunch and dinner. At dinner, students pick up breakfast items for the next day. This helps minimize the number of contacts that individuals have per day, and may reduce sanitization procedures in the venue by an entire meal period.

2. Limit Occupancy to Reduce Densities

Impact: likely temporary

Considerations: utilize technology to manage occupant counts in order to reduce densities within dining facilities. For example, Gettysburg College is using a virtual queuing app that allows students to reserve the limited available seating in dining outlets. Rochester Institute of Technology and Rhode Island School of Design are also scheduling reservations for meal periods. Additionally, many schools across the nation are planning for take-out service only, ensuring that large crowds will not be gathered in the dining halls. In many instances, students will be expected to eat primarily in their dorms and/or classrooms. Setting up additional service locations (distribution points) in residence halls, academic buildings, libraries, etc. to help disperse demand and limit queueing lines of students picking up food is a major consideration that almost all campuses are looking to implement for the fall.

3. Limit Touchpoints

Impact: likely temporary

Considerations: this ties back our last post, which recommended the removal of any self-service elements from a dining facility. This could include operators distributing silverware (likely disposable to start the Fall semester) and individual condiment packs to each guest, providing full-service beverage stations and/or bottled beverages, and removing the use of trays completely. In retail environments, eliminating both cash transactions and reusable menus, and promoting the use of pre-order apps will also limit touchpoints.

4. Remove Checker Stations

Impact: likely temporary

Considerations: minimize another critical touchpoint and person-to-person interaction by temporarily removing the checker stations and transitioning to touchless or “self-swipe” stations. RISD successfully implemented this solution by transitioning their greeters to "hospitality champions" that manage lines, direct traffic, and assist with guests' questions in an effort to enforce physical distancing, control queuing, and maintain one-directional throughput.

5. Add Hand Washing & Hand Sanitizing Stations

Impact: trending and future

Considerations: in most dining outlets, both retail and all-you-care-to-eat, the hand-washing stations are designated for employees only and located in the back-of-house or behind the serving counters, which are not accessible to guests in the front-of-house. The inclusion of front-of-house, guest-use hand washing stations, will likely become the norm in dining facilities, even post-COVID. In the meantime, the more time-sensitive and budget-friendly addition of sanitizing stations throughout serveries and dining halls will help facilities to open safely before permanent plumbing infrastructure can be added.

As always, we want to hear from you! What is your operation doing to prioritize guest safety during and post-COVID-19? Tune in next week for our final topic of this three-part series on Employee Safety! #riccadesignstudios #creatingwhatsnext

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