How Whitsons is Protecting our Customers and Team Members
Safety is Our First Priority
As a food service leader since 1979, Whitsons is committed to providing safe and healthy dining environments for our customers and workplaces for our team members. In the midst of the unprecedented circumstances caused by COVID-19, Whitsons is prepared to support our operations as we re-open by following guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Health guidelines, federal OSHA standards related to COVID-19 and state Executive Orders.
Our plan for re-opening requires a transparent, open communications protocol with our clients, as well as important changes that need to be made in the interest of the individual communities that we serve. Some of these changes may include implementing a cashless-only processing system at the POS, eliminating self-service stations and/or limiting the number of customers in the serving areas.
While Whitsons will continue to formulate options and offer assistance in our operating plans, the CDC, health authorities, Governor’s orders in each state and individual district directives are what will ultimately set the guidelines on how we manage dining programs for our communities. However, below are some general guidelines you can expect from our teams.
Proactive Safety Measures Currently in Place
In response to the pandemic, we have already taken critical measures to help reduce the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). As we monitor the situation, we continue to enhance certain protocols and provide additional resources as outlined here.
Re-Opening Task Force & Best Practices
Whitsons has developed a COVID-19 Preparedness Re-opening Plan for our Corporate Office in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This plan will allow for a safe and healthy workplace for all our team members, customers and other visitors.
In addition, at the start of the pandemic, Whitsons School Nutrition appointed a Task Force comprised of Whitsons executives and top school nutrition management professionals to help develop a re-opening plan for our school operations. This task force continues to offer support in the areas of:
- Training. As part of our CORE training, we provide a multi-tier training program, “Together Six Feet Apart,” to instruct team members on proper sanitation, personal hygiene, protective personal equipment (i.e., face coverings and gloves), taking digital temperatures and identifying symptoms, social distancing, managing food safely, enforcing biosecurity procedures, understanding service modifications and other safety protocols required under pandemic adjusted operational guidelines. In addition, all of our managers are required to be ServSafe COVID-19 certified.
- Social Distancing. We enforce social distancing protocols in service and seating areas, such as food shields and setting tables six feet apart.
- Recovery Menus and Modified Service. Depending on the particular regulations and requirements, we may implement modified service options in lieu of a full service servery. We have also eliminated all self-serve stations in which students would handle any utensils or otherwise interact in favor of convenient, safe grab-and-go options. To assist your onsite team with developing a varied, nutritious, tasty and safe service, we have recovery menus available that accommodate a modified service without sacrificing quality or innovation.
- Packaging. Protocols on safely preparing and packaging food for grab-and-go service are reinforced, such as specific fresh produce wrapping requirements, time stamping and sanitation.
- Technology. We continue to encourage technology, such as cashless and/or pre-paid systems, to minimize personal contact.
- Communications. We empower our managers to keep an open and ongoing communication with our clients and customers and provide resources, such as online menus with nutritional and allergen information, newsletters and other website bulletins to keep everyone updated. As changes or new regulations develop, our team will make sure to keep the school administration apprised immediately.
- Marketing. We have developed a number of signage resources to help remind team members and students to follow safety procedures, such as wearing face coverings, social distancing (including floor stickers), how to clean and disinfect, follow CDC heath mandates and more.
We are all working in an ever-changing environment as our country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. However, our practices represent some of the ways that school districts can rely on Whitsons to provide the enhanced safety that families will expect, even after vaccines are deployed. By providing a safe environment, school nutrition programs can once again focus on increasing meal participation and federal reimbursements, while working to rebuild from the challenges they have faced as a result of the pandemic.