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With flu cases and other contagious illnesses steadily on the rise, convenience store locations must think outside the box regarding customer safety. Remaining open while issues are on the rise is always risky. With the proper safety solutions in place, convenience stores can continue to operate while keeping customers and employees safe from certain illnesses. 

Along with masks and rigorous cleaning regimens, modern solutions like sneeze guards make it easier for essential businesses like convenience stores to stay open during difficult times. Utilizing sneeze guards for convenience stores, grocery stores, and other foodservice locations play a critical part in safety protocols to protect customers from contagious illnesses.

6 Surefire Solutions to Slow the Spread of Sickness in Convenience Stores

People contract contagious illnesses, most often through infected particles within the air. It’s crucial that convenience stores put store-wide safety procedures in place to protect employees and customers from contracting or spreading certain diseases that can seriously harm others.

1. Mandate Masks

The CDC and other public health organizations recommend that people wear masks when outside their own homes during the pandemic, but face covers can be worn whenever someone is feeling sick. Many studies show that masks are crucial in minimizing the spread of airborne illnesses. According to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), mask-wearing serves two purposes:

  • Source control: Non-medical grade cloth masks can stop respiratory droplets from escaping a person’s mouth or nose when they sneeze and cough. 
  • Protection: Medical grade N95 masks are an acceptable form of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in medical environments

Making masks mandatory is an effective method for keeping convenience store customers safe during challenging times. Employees should wear masks at all times during a shift and avoid touching their faces while wearing a cloth face mask. If your convenience store has the expendable funds, provide free disposable masks for patrons who need one upon entering the store. Posting concise and easy-to-understand information about mask mandates on entryway doors ensures that (most) customers will come inside wearing a face covering as we continue fighting for a healthier world.

2. Set Up a Cleaning Schedule

The pandemic is changing the way customers shop and raising their expectations of cleanliness exponentially. Shoppers will still want to see a well-sanitized store long after the Covid-19 vaccine emerges. Convenience stores must create a cleaning checklist to ensure that the store meets safety standards now and into the future, so customers can stay healthy during flu seasons and other times when contracting illnesses is common.

Both the World Health Organization and CDC provide detailed cleaning recommendations for establishments that offer food provisions, like convenience stores, grocers, and gas stations. Some examples of tasks that convenience stores should be implementing in daily cleaning schedules include:

  • Disinfecting frequently touched surfaces like coffee counters, cash registers, payment terminals, beverage coolers, door handles, and soft drink dispensers regularly.
  • Thoroughly sanitizing food preparation spaces before and after the food preparation takes place.
  • Hourly sanitization of communal spaces like bathrooms and seating areas.
  • Regular hand-washing from all employees.
  • “Deep cleaning” methods during daily opening and closing procedures.

Standardized cleaning schedules will positively impact convenience store safety, minimizing the risk of contracting any infectious diseases or illnesses. 

3. Provide Hand Sanitizer

Hand hygiene is a crucial component of keeping convenience store customers safe during difficult times. The CDC recommends hand sanitizer as an essential element of hand hygiene routines. All hand sanitizers must meet specific standards to be effective in eliminating a virus or other germs. Alcohol-based hand rubs, or ABHRs, should contain at least 60-95% alcohol.

Convenience stores can provide hand sanitizer in high-contact areas like cash registers and coffee bars or supply bottles of the alcohol solution for sale. To minimize touchpoints in your convenience store and limit interactions with potentially infected paper money, you can also encourage the use of contactless payment methods.

4. Enforce Social Distancing

Social distancing is a safety strategy encouraged by several organizations, including the CDC, World Health Organization, and other government agencies. The safety measure aims to limit physical contact between people to avoid illnesses. Social distancing is crucial when someone feels sick since it’s understood that viruses easily pass through the air on infected respiratory droplets to those nearby.

Many organizations recommend maintaining at least six feet of space between people outside of your household currently, whether you are indoors or outdoors. It can be challenging to obtain adequate space in convenience stores to employ proper social distancing protocols. Employees should attempt to enforce social distancing between patrons, while convenience store owners can provide signage or floor stickers to remind patrons to comply. 

5. Limit Convenience Store Capacity

Convenience stores are commonly very compact, making it challenging for customers and workers to maintain adequate social distancing. The best solution if this problem becomes prevalent in your convenience store is to limit the number of customers allowed in at one time. Reduced capacity is an excellent way to limit contact between customers, creating a safe environment for everyone who enters the store when illnesses are on the rise.

6. Implement Sneeze Guards

Food shields are already fairly commonplace in most convenience stores. For instance, you might be familiar with buffet glass around concession areas in convenience stores. In response to the 2020 pandemic, plexiglass sneeze guards’ use is exploding in less expected places. The transparent sneeze guard barriers bring an added layer of protection to convenience store customers. Plexiglass sneeze guards will probably remain popular long after the pandemic ends to appease peoples’ health concerns.

Acrylic sneeze guard panels are effective in protecting people from contracting contagious viruses or infections. The plexiglass barriers block airborne respiratory droplets as they travel through the air. Sneeze guards also encourage customers to adhere to social distancing standards and stay six feet away from employees and others. Convenience stores can utilize sneeze guards in several ways to help slow the spread of contagious ailments:

  • Place sneeze guard panels with pass-throughs at register areas, so there is minimal contact between employees and customers at checkout.
  • If your convenience store serves hot food, utilize hanging sneeze guards where customers order and pick up their food, similar to what you’d see in a fast-casual eatery.
  • Mobile sneeze guard barriers are an excellent way to maintain orderly lines and adequate social distancing when long queues form.
  • In areas where customers can get all their coffee fixings or near roller food machines, you might consider installing a freestanding sneeze guard with brackets, bringing another layer of protection to high contact locations in your convenience store.

Sneeze Guards for Convenience Stores

Sneeze guards are an excellent safety solution for convenience stores during difficult times like flu season, the winter, or in case of another pandemic. Business owners should seriously consider installing sneeze guards for convenience stores. Contact a sneeze guard manufacturer to take advantage of the additional safety benefits offered by sneeze guards.