Employee safety comes first for a successful recovery in Las Vegas

Posted Saturday, 23 May 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Driving down Las Vegas Boulevard in recent weeks has been an eerie experience. Seeing few tourists walking the streets and even fewer flights coming into McCarran International Airport has made Las Vegas feel like a ghost town. Like most local business owners, I’m ready to see things return to normal, to reopen and to jumpstart economic recovery. But I want to be sure we’re taking the right approach to recovery: putting employee safety first. That means taking things slow. At the three McDonald’s locations I own and operate with my wife, we employ more than 170 crew members whom we consider our family, and who have stood by our side — serving health care workers, first responders and community members — as we navigate this pandemic. I’m proud that we have been able to retain more than 99% of our staff, with only one person choosing to leave in the past three months. That is a product of how we treat our team, and because we’ve made sure our crew was comfortable with our operations throughout this pandemic. Many may believe we are being overly cautious when it comes to fully reopening our restaurants. Even some of our team members have said we’re being overprotective, and that it’s time to return to normal. Certainly, a full reopening the moment the governor gave us the go-ahead would have been good for our bottom line. But profits aren’t worth seeing a look of concern on crew members’ faces when they come to work. Profits aren’t worth having my crew leave because they feel like they don’t have adequate safety gear. For us to reopen, to recover, we need to put our crew’s safety and comfort first, and the same is true for all Las Vegas businesses. The steps each business takes to safely reopen are going to be different. We are focusing on implementing the dozens of additional safety measures that McDonald’s is recommending. As we’ve done since the start of the pandemic, we’re providing employees with masks and gloves and are conducting enhanced sanitization and cleaning efforts. We have put up barriers to separate crew from customers and have marked our dining rooms with social distancing indicators. We are conducting wellness checks as crew come in for their shifts and are giving paid leave to those who need it or who don’t feel comfortable coming into the restaurant. For now, our dining rooms won’t be more than 50% full, and that won’t change until McDonald’s and local and state government officials indicate it’s safe, and until our crew members say they’re comfortable. We have also chosen to take care of our crew the way we would take care of any member of our family, providing them with extended access to health care and telehealth options. We have ensured that they and their family members, many of whom work in hotels or on the Strip and are currently unemployed, receive free meals. Our crew knows that we are here for them, and that we will listen if they need anything or if they want us to do things differently. I know my fellow McDonald’s owner operators in the Las Vegas area feel the same way I do, and that they’re busy creating enhanced safety measures and protocols that will enable us to reopen safely. I hope other Las Vegas businesses will take the same responsible approach. It is the combination of the service industry and the first responders in our communities that has kept Las Vegas running these past few months, and that will allow us to recover. Things may not look “normal” in the near future, and that’s OK. Las Vegas will emerge stronger than ever if business owners put our people’s safety first. Michael Kiel has owned and operated McDonald’s locations in Summerlin, North Las Vegas and Spring Valley for the past seven years.

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