04 Jul '20

How to help you and your staff to safely return to a commercial kitchen

We know that hospitality reopening brings both uncertainties and excitement. Whilst this is the news the whole industry has been preparing and hoping for, it is bound to cause some worries, and potential anxiety, for some chefs who step into a ‘new normal’ for the first time.

The kitchen at Premier Foods HQ has opened on multiple occasions over recent weeks to enable our culinary team to get back to business. We wanted to share some of our learnings with you as there may be some key points you haven’t considered.

1. You will have to put your own risk assessments in place but make sure you circulate this with all members of staff in advance. This document gave our staff the confidence that we had their health and safety at heart and helped us to know we were all working on the same page.
2. Talk to your team online before bringing them back into the workplace so they know what to expect. Your staff will have had different experiences of this pandemic. Some will be desperate to return to work, but others may have personal circumstances that make it more difficult. This could be a vulnerable family member or children needing home-schooling so consider each individual circumstance. 
3. Clear signs around the building really helped our team in those first few days as we all adjusted to the new changes.
4. As your equipment will have been turned off for several months you need to check this over. We had an issue with one of the fridges on our first day back, so we had to put a call into an engineer to get this resolved.
5. Think about everything you are likely to need over the next few hours and put them into one place to reduce movement around the kitchen. Consider the position of all the items that will be shared, such as waste bins, as this reduces the risk of staff passing each other unnecessarily in a confined space.
6. Allow more time for everything you do. You’ll need to move more slowly around workstations and give your team time to think and adjust. We struggled on the first few days trying to fit in activity which we thought would take less time. Allow for more breaks, especially if you’re limiting movement as this reduces the length of time your team will be stood in one place.
7. Once you start working, communicate as much as possible with the rest of your team. This gives other chefs the chance to move out of your way, maintain distance and avoid unnecessary contact. One member of our team described it like a human game of chess where we had to wait for another person to move before we could.
8. Tell people if you’re leaving the kitchen, where you’re going and make people aware when you come back. There may be areas outside the kitchen that are more restrictive. We’ve noticed that toilets are one particular area that needs to be managed with a “one in, one out” policy.
9. Keep an open mind. Over the last few months, we’ve seen an ever-changing situation with Covid-19 and this could continue for some time yet. Absorb all the information you can, read the latest industry guidance and be prepared to make quick and important changes to protect your business, staff and customers.
10. Try and relax and enjoy cooking together again. After so many Zoom calls and restrictions it felt good for the team to be back together again, face to face. We know it is going to feel different for some time yet, but it has got easier each time we’ve gone into the kitchen and we are sure it will for you too.

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