Safeguards to Help Restaurants and Hotels Deal With Risks of COVID-19 Pandemic

By Mark Lee

The hospitality industry has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps more than any other.

Even before the fuller impact of the novel coronavirus was being felt, March saw year-over-year global hotel profits plunge 100%. In the U.S., now with a third of all coronavirus cases, revenue per room nosedived 65% as occupancy rates sank to 31.5%.1 U.S. restaurants have been hurt even worse, accounting for 60% of March’s job losses2, with projections that 20% might permanently close.3

As the industry adjusts to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurant and hotel management must continue to anticipate possible risks as shelter-in-place measures are maintained and as they are eventually lifted. Top considerations follow.

Now delivering? Restaurants must limit exposures

After their dining rooms were closed due to COVID-19, many restaurants have turned to offering delivery services that weren’t previously offered. That creates a hired non-owned auto exposure; their carriers must be alerted, and the exposure must be added to their policy for coverage in the event of an accident. Other steps to limit exposure include:

  • Limit employee contact with customers.
  • Take only credit card payments and designate a pick-up spot or window for takeout orders.
  • Implement a hired non-owned fleet program. Obtain MVR reviews and certificate of insurance review. Also include a formal safety policy and have employees and management both sign off on it.

Safeguards for affected hotels and travel stops

Even with few or no guests, the property must be maintained. Precautionary measures include:

  • Arrange for routine security checks.
  • Ensure fire protection/detection systems are working and fire protection inspections are ongoing.
  • Ensure adequate heating so pipes don’t freeze and possibly burst in colder regions.

Be alert to cyber threats

Reports to the FBI of cybercrimes have quadrupled during the COVID-19 pandemic, a reminder to restaurant and hotel employers to step up their security measures.4 Ransomware and email phishing can lead to credential theft and financial fraud — issues to guard against at any time. For now, step up internal cyber security protocols and training procedures and remind employees to:

  • Report suspicious emails to management.
  • Never open unknown or suspicious links or attachments.
  • Verify all requests for data or money before sending.
  • Never respond to spam.

Employ best practices for workplace health

Finally, as shelter-in-place orders are lifted, restaurants and hotels should ensure measures are in place to protect employees and guests from contagion. Here are some best practices to combat COVID-19 in restaurants and hotels:

  • Establish a firm policy: sick employees must stay home. Those who show symptoms should see a healthcare professional and self-quarantine away from work for 14 days.
  • Employees who exhibit respiratory illness symptoms on the job should be separated and immediately evaluated by a healthcare professional.
  • Reinforce good hygiene practices, such as frequent hand-washing, sneezing and coughing etiquette and social distancing.
  • Employees should use a cloth face coverings and there should be adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene behaviors, including hand sanitizer, soap, tissues, and no-touch trash cans.
  • Clean/disinfect frequently-touched surfaces often with disposable, alcohol-based wipes. This includes doorknobs, elevators, offices, radios, and stair-rails.