“Restaurant equipment distributors provide the knowledge and expertise around the tools and equipment needed for restaurants to operate in a safe and efficient manner, and will continue to be critical to the successful reopening process.”

Te Road to Recovery Although 1.4 million restaurant

jobs returned in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the road to recovery is still paved with uncertainty. “May’s job numbers confirm what we see in the restaurant and foodservice industry – catastrophic losses with no clear timeline for recovery,” Bené says. With states now reopening, Bené believes that safely and successfully welcoming diners back into restaurants will require that the industry tap into its creativity and ingenuity while cultivating strong partnerships at local, state, and federal levels.

“In tough times, our industry’s

entrepreneurial spirit shines,” Bené says. “Being part of our industry’s recovery has confirmed what I have always known: Where there’s a will, we are going to find a way to get it done. Operators are finding creative ways to keep serving our customers and to adapt, including meal kits, cocktails to go, and expanded take- out and delivery offerings.” Yet recovery will still need to be a wide-ranging, collaborative effort between businesses, government, and consumers. As an example, Bené points to restaurants that switched to delivery and takeout

during the shutdown, and how they are now sharing best practices with one another while expanding that knowledge into dining rooms. For its part, Bené says the association has been and will continue to be deeply entrenched in the recovery process. “We worked with the Food & Drug Administration, academia, the Conference for Food Protection, Ecolab, public health officials, and industry representatives to develop reopening guidelines that are now widely used by restaurants and food safety officials across the country.”

Setting Goals for Success “Since the onset of widespread

closures, on-premises dining has virtually disappeared,” Bené says. “Our goals are to increase the frequency of on-premises dining and move consumer sentiment back toward dining out.”

The association launched its ServSafe Dining Commitment program, which showcases restaurants that have demonstrated their commitment to the health and safety of employees and guests, to help achieve those goals. “Through participation in the program, a restaurant reassures returning customers that the operation is carefully following recommended reopening guidance and is ready for business,” Bené says. The program is supported by the association’s Restaurant Revival advertising campaign that, through broadcast, print, and digital platforms, invites diners back into restaurants. The ServSafe

Dining Commitment logo will be prominently featured on a door decal, urging diners to learn more about the steps restaurants are taking to keep them safe. The decal becomes a clear indication to guests that the restaurant has ServSafe-certified employees and is following local recommendations as well as the association’s reopening guidance. Ultimately, it seems the key

ingredient in the recipe to success is going to be consumer confidence: “It’s imperative that we reassure customers that the restaurants they love are open and committed to their health and enjoyment,” says Bené. Creating that reassurance will

require every segment of the foodservice industry to dedicate themselves to prioritizing guest safety, an effort that will require leadership and guidance from people such as Bené. “I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve the industry, especially during this time,” he says. “My sincere love for the industry, driven by the creativity, passion, and the entrepreneurial spirit of our industry’s owners and operators is what initially attracted me to this position,” Bené continues. “And, as a former industry supplier and distributor, I know how important it is that we all work together to support this industry during times like this. The great work that FEDA and its many members are doing to support the industry is what allows this spirit to flourish and will enable our ongoing success.”

Summer 2020 37

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