Good Evening, Please Meet our Sanitiser Sommelier
Finding creative ways to make essential sanitising part of the hospitality experience.
This article originally featured on Hospitality Unites website, a Fine Food Australia Initiative.
When guests arrive at The Gantry at Pier One in Sydney, they’re greeted by a hand sanitiser sommelier standing by a 1950s drink trolley. The trolley is stocked with scented sanitisers made by Australian distillers, such as Archie Rose. The sommelier shows guests to their table, allows them to smell the various sanitisers on perfume strips before they choose a preferred scent and then the staff member and diners sanitise their hands together.
“It makes the guests feel comfortable,” says general manager Kim Mahaffy. “We’ve taken a serious and important hygiene protocol and added a layer of experience to it.”
Kim’s favourite sanitiser is by the Manly Spirits Co. – “It’s almost like having a martini in your hand,” she says but she’s also rather taken by the offering from Onyx Coffee Spirits. Customers love it. “The feedback has been great,” she says. “It shows our commitment to cleanliness and there’s a little bit of fun.”
Demonstrating hygiene on the dining floor acts as a signal that everything is shipshape behind the scenes, too. “When it comes to dining out, I think about how I want to experience things,” says Kim.
“When you see a sanitiser sommelier cleaning their hands between every action, it reassures you that the kitchens are immaculate, the dishwasher temperature is right and that everything is perfectly taken care of.”
The Fink Group is also sending strong hygiene signals to diners at its restaurants, including Quay, Bennelong and Firedoor in Sydney, and Beach Byron Bay. It’s worked with Sydney University researcher and clinician Eugen Molodysky to develop its COVID-Safe House Policy.
Along with daily deep cleans, staff temperature checks and regular sanitising, each restaurant has a staff member dedicated to COVID-19 safety. “As far as we know, no other restaurant team is going to these lengths to ensure that guests have a safe and enjoyable dining experience,” says marketing and communications manager Kate Witenden.
Mauro Callegari is the owner and chef of The Independent in Gembrook, outside Melbourne. He rosters on one staff member to oversee hygiene and cleanliness during busy services.
“They sanitise the tables and chairs after a waiter clears the table,” he says. “They visit the bathroom at least every 30 minutes to clean doorknobs and door frames. Whatever can be touched has to be sanitised.” Someone else takes care of sanitising the bar and the kitchen to minimise crossover.
The pandemic has added another layer of tasks but Mauro isn’t finding it onerous. “It’s a nonstop job but it’s not too difficult,” he says. “We followed the recommendations from the government guidelines and beyond that it’s common sense.”
Mauro trained all his staff and rotates the job of sanitisation monitor between his crew. It helps that everyone is schooled up because everyone can pitch in when the restaurant is quiet.
As well as cleaning the restaurant, staff are continually washing and sanitising their own hands. “We are happy to do it to stay safe but it’s hard on the hands,” says Mauro. “At the end of the night, I definitely need my moisturiser!”
The trickiest thing was finding cleaning products that signalled cleanliness and hygiene to customers but didn’t detract from the food. “The first disinfectant we tried smelled like a train station,” he says. “You wouldn’t have been able to taste your meal on top of it.” They experimented and settled on one with eucalyptus notes. “It does the job and it smells fresh and clean but not overpowering.”
Mauro feels responsible to his staff as well as his customers. “We have had staff worried about a customer coming in and being sick,” he says. “Cleaning and sanitising are for the people working here, too. We’re doing this for everyone.”
An initiative of Fine Food, Hospitality Unites is the voice of the foodservice industry, dedicated to sharing the collective experiences and solutions to thrive in a post-COVID economy.
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