Safety in the restaurant industry has always been a priority. However, over the past few years other unconventional safety problems have begun to arise within the food and restaurant business. Today, the industry must take a broader look at safety to include protecting patrons from injury on the premises and addressing broader social threats. In order to address these concerns, the restaurant industry must overhaul their view of public safety.

This public safety disruption that the restaurant industry needs will not only create a safer environment for customers and the public, but it will also redefine how the industry thinks about corporate social responsibility (CSR). Traditionally, CSR has been thought of as a way to give back to the community through volunteering, environmentally friendly initiatives or ethical practices. However, this new understanding of CSR pushes restaurants toward better awareness of the potential safety issues impacting their patrons and their communities, and creates a sense of loyalty that keeps customers coming back time after time. 

Let’s explore how restaurants can overhaul their CSR to implement public safety initiatives. 

Evaluating Public Safety Concerns

The first step restaurants and food establishments should take to begin their public safety overhaul is to evaluate the current problems facing their staff and customers. For example, nearly 10 percent of the American population is living with diabetes, so it is almost guaranteed that staff members and diners will need a safe space to administer insulin on the job. 

The opioid epidemic is another major issue that restaurants and food establishments face with both employees and customers. In fact, 39 percent of employers view prescription drug use as a safety threat in their workplace and 75 percent of employers in the U.S. have been directly affected by opioids. Not only does this impact restaurant staff, but it also impacts the safety of diners, meaning the public.  

Implementing Solutions and Providing Resources  

After evaluating the specific public safety concerns your restaurant or food establishment must address through its new public safety CSR initiative, it’s time to implement solutions. 

Starbucks is a great example of a company that has successfully implemented a solution to improve public safety in their restrooms by installing sharps disposal containers intended to help people living with an opioid addiction safely dispose of their needles. These sharps containers also provide a secondary purpose as a safe space for people living with diabetes to administer their insulin. Implementing safe disposal containers provides protection for staff and public customers by lowering the chance that either group will encounter a needlestick injury. 

Another way restaurants can better support public safety initiatives is through employee training. As it relates to the opioid epidemic, we were recently the launch partner for the National Safety Council’s Opioids at Work Employer Toolkit to help businesses in all industries be better prepared to address the impacts of the opioid epidemic at work. While similar resources and training may first prepare restaurants to help their staff, they can also serve as a tool to protect the public. For example, training employees on safe needle disposal will keep customers and staff from being injured by improperly disposed needles.

Creating Customer Loyalty 

As we’ve discussed, adding sharps disposal containers in restaurants and food establishments helps address the potential public safety risks caused by the opioid epidemic, and provides a safe space for people living with diabetes to administer care, but it can also benefit consumer loyalty. In fact, 61 percent of Americans with diabetes think more highly of a restaurant after seeing a sharps container in their restroom. However, less than half (45 percent) of Americans with diabetes have actually encountered a sharps container in a public restroom. This kind of initiative provides a major opportunity for brands to implement important public safety solutions, with the added benefit of positive consumer perceptions. 

Through a newfound priority for public safety in the restaurant industry, food establishments will not only be doing their part to create a safer environment for their staff, diners and community, but also boosting customer loyalty and thus their bottom line. Armed with this knowledge of redefining CSR in the restaurant industry, how will your restaurant make public safety a priority in 2020? 

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