July 1, 2017 |

Dining-area Dangers

By Pizza Today

Take charge of guest safety

Ask any pizzeria owner and he or she will insist that keeping diners safe in the front of the house is a top priority. But sadly, taking serious, preemptive steps to prevent dining-area guest injuries sometimes doesn’t happen until after an injury occurs. One pizzeria expert paid close scrutiny to dining-room safety because he knows –– if there’s a way for guests to injure themselves, they will.

“The leading causes of guests getting injured in the front of the house are slipping on slick surfaces, tripping over something that was left on the ground or falling because of an uneven surface or a threshold they didn’t see,” says Michael Shepherd, owner of pizzeria consultancy Michael Shepherd Consulting LLC and president of Perfecting Pizza LLC in Ohio.

Enhancing diner safety starts by being preemptive with pizzeria restaurant design.

“Ensure heavy traffic coming out of the kitchen can’t immediately slam into your customers,” Shepherd advises. “Create a riprap, of sorts, so servers can’t swing a kitchen door open and come flying out with a tray full of hot pizzas and hit customers on the other side.”

Servers must clearly announce “coming through, hot pizza or make way!” each time they exit the kitchen heading into the dining room.

“Always look ahead before rounding a corner,” he adds. “Create these standing operating procedures and enforce them.”

Guests entering a pizzeria don’t like to be surprised by unexpected steps.

“Older buildings converted into pizzerias in urban areas sometimes contain several unexpected steps (into a recessed dining area) — which can lead to a guest falling down,” says Dean Small, founder and chief executive officer of Synergy Restaurant Consultants in Newport Beach, California.

Any time a pizzeria contains multiple levels, steps or any kind of an uneven surface, the chances for someone injuring themselves increases.

“If possible, keep it flat, simple and non-slip,” Shepherd says. “Safety always trumps aesthetics in today’s (litigious) society.”

If a pizzeria contains a self-serve soft-drink station, ice spills onto the floor making puddles, thus creating a perfect environment for someone to slip and fall.

“Place rubber mats under all drink dispensers and constantly maintain floors to keep them dry,” Small reminds. “It’s critical to strictly manage that area, because all it takes is one ice cube to create a problem.”

Dulono’s Pizza, which operates four pizzerias in Minnesota –– offers maximum seating of 277, 136, 44 and 20, respectfully, and its owner has already addressed several pre-mentioned safety challenges.

“The biggest potential customer-safety threats in the front of the house are steps and wet floors from tracked-in snow and water,” says owner Jared Gruett.

To thwart these threats, his pizzerias visually marked its steps, constantly clears snow, salts its parking lots and around doors, and placed entry rugs at the doors.

Electrical outlets located near dining room tables or in waiting areas at Shepherd’s former pizzerias were protected by plastic electrical outlet caps to ensure kids couldn’t stick objects into them. All jagged or sharp corners on display cases, tile edges and counter tops in or near the dining room were also smoothed out by his staff.

“If a guest slips and falls on a rounded corner, they’ll get a bruise. If they hit a sharp corner, they’ll need stitches,” Shepherd reasons.

Anchor all wall hangings at their bottoms to the wall to ensure they can’t fall onto a guest, Shepherd suggests.

Pizzeria owners must resist temptation to shoehorn too many tables into a dining area, otherwise servers and diners will bump into each other and guests could be injured.

If dim lighting is chosen to enhance the ambiance of your pizzeria, consider installing overhead halogen spotlights to pinpoint a narrow diameter of brighter light only onto the table, plus directional or lower-aisle lighting to allow guests to see their feet when exiting the dining room.

Routinely maintain your parking lots and side walks.

“A parking lot that’s in horrible condition with pot holes makes a business look like it’s failing and guests won’t dine there,” Shepherd warns. “It’s the kiss of death.”

If a pizzeria’s landlord won’t fix parking lot pot holes, buy a bag of cold mix asphalt patch at the hardware store and fill in the pot holes yourself, he urges.

“It’s a cost of doing business and part of being a business owner,” Shepherd warns. “It will be more costly in the long run if you don’t.”

Bryan Salvage is a freelance writer based in Elburn, Illinois.