COVID-19 Safety Tips for Dispensaries: How to Keep Your Employees and Customers Safe

by Stu Waters,

 

Find out how dispensaries are guaranteeing safety in the time of COVID.

 

Cannabis dispensaries have earned the distinction of being “essential businesses” in many states. However, the development of the COVID-19 pandemic is putting pressure on dispensary owners to implement new measures to protect customers and employees.

Making safe, legal cannabis products available to the people who need them is a fundamental value shared by all dispensary owners. However, achieving that goal under the conditions imposed by a public health crisis is not always easy.

Fortunately, industry leaders have already paved the way for dispensary owners across the United States. Dispensaries that take time to adhere to experts’ guidelines are prepared to meet today’s challenges and put safe, accessible cannabis products in their customers’ hands.

Identify and Accommodate Crisis Shopping Trends

Unlike many other industries, cannabis consumers have not slowed down their purchases in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, there is a small but significant growth in average transaction volumes in many territories. This indicates that people are stocking up in order to avoid going out of the house more than strictly necessary.

It also means that customers are spending more-per-visit, resulting in larger sales overall. Cannabis dispensaries that know how to implement social distancing guidelines while properly merchandising their products are going to out-compete those that do not. In many areas, COVID-friendly services like curbside pick-up are explicitly allowed only as a public health measure – which means they could disappear the moment authorities believe the situation is under control.

Nevertheless, there are many ways today’s dispensaries can adapt to changing conditions while offering increased value to customers and patients alike. Implementing these tips now will help your retail store survive during these challenging times.

Social Distancing Tips for Dispensary Safety

  • Make sure employees and customers can stand at least 3-6 feet away from one another. Rearrange your checkout counters if you have to.
  • Limit the number of customers on your main sales floor. Ask customers to wait outside if necessary.
  • Encourage customers to spend less time in-store. Making your menu available online can help speed along the process.
  • If you have sales staff members who walk the floor to interact with customers, make sure they are trained on the latest social distancing guidelines.
  • Don’t be afraid to move shelves and furniture around to maximize space. You may need to remove clutter from major parts of your dispensary.
  • Use tape to mark six-foot distances on your floor, especially in customer waiting areas. This helps give visitors a clear visual guide on how close to stay to one another.
  • Remove chairs and seating from the inside of your dispensary. You don’t want to encourage customers to wait around longer than necessary.

Dispensary Cleanliness and Hygiene Safety Tips

  • Ask your employees to wear gloves at all times. They regularly have to handle products and cash, both of which can easily harbor viral particles.
  • Implement hand-washing routines and ask employees to avoid touching their faces when possible. Nail-biters and employees with allergies are particularly susceptible.
  • Keep a single employee assigned to each individual cashier terminal. This prevents having multiple people touch the same machine, mitigating the risk of viral contamination.
  • Offer hand sanitizer to customers upon entry. If you have walking sales staff, they can encourage customers to use the sanitizer and politely remind them to avoid touching common surfaces.
  • Keep cleaning products handy so your employees can wipe down terminals and countertops between every customer interaction.
  • If your dispensary has an ATM located on-premises, make sure it is disinfected between every use, if possible.
  • Be on the lookout for coughing, sneezing, and sniffling employees. Even if it’s just a seasonal allergy, it’s best to let them stay home until symptoms improve.

Order-Ahead Service and Delivery Tips

  • Order-ahead service is increasing in every state that allows it. Customers are already used to ordering ahead at restaurants and grocery stores, and they will expect cannabis dispensaries to offer similar services.
  • If you can implement order-ahead services, make sure a particular section of your dispensary is dedicated exclusively to these orders. This will help prevent unexpected stockouts and inventory management problems.
  • You don’t have to build and implement your own online order-ahead service. Partner up with a vendor like Dutchie so that you can offer order-ahead service to customers without having to change your existing processes in a major way.
  • Make sure to stay informed on your state’s order-ahead and delivery regulations. Many states are relaxing their rules on a temporary basis. Don’t let yourself get caught acting out of compliance.

Tips for Customer Communication and Transactions

  • Try to handle customer IDs as little as possible. Budtenders and cashiers should be able to verify customer identities and complete transactions without having to handle a new ID every single time.
  • Make sure you post current, up-to-date information about your store hours, product availability, and social distancing policies on all of your web properties. Send emails, post to social media, and keep your website updated so that the information you offer online is consistent and accurate.
  • Tell customers what measures you are taking to respond to the coronavirus crisis and how your actions increase customer safety. They will appreciate it.
  • Use gift cards! Although cannabis is still a cash-only industry, you can reduce cash-handling risks by using store-specific gift cards and offering to accept gift card purchases by email and telephone. 
  • Watch customer purchase limits. Some customers will want to stock up on more cannabis than they are allowed to by state regulation. It falls on you and your employees to remain vigilant and explain that there can be no exceptions to those rules.
  • Consider filling small bags with your state’s maximum daily purchase limit and selling them as a standalone grab-and-go product. Look for other opportunities to streamline the customer experience and reduce in-store browsing time.

Be Prepared for Change

As the public health situation changes, dispensary best practices are likely to change as well. Be prepared to accommodate new guidelines when they appear, and make sure not to be caught unawares by important COVID developments. Your dispensary is an institution that people have come to rely on. Maintaining the right approach to customer and employee safety will help build a better, healthier community for everyone.