A welcome sigh of relief can be heard coast-to-coast as more Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19, and more businesses start to reopen at full capacity, carefully following CDC and state guidelines.
In New Orleans, live music can now be heard; restaurants are bustling; hotel capacity is increasing, and streets are filling up with people. Eager to welcome more tourists and bring back meetings and conventions with health and safety top-of-mind, a community-wide NOLA SAFE certification initiative has been established to provide standards for best practices, accountability, and transparency for restaurants and hospitality businesses. Under the NOLA SAFE certification program, participants pledge to follow specific health, sanitation, and safety guidelines. Once certified, the business receives a NOLA SAFE badge to display and benefits from marketing support and resources available at the NOLA Hospitality SAFE web platform. Participation is free.
NOLA Safe has partnered with LifeCity, an economic development firm behind the Love Your City initiative, to create a digital platform for the program focused on education, advocacy, and resources. “The Love Your City Initiative is proud to partner with NOLA SAFE to help reopen the economy with a new tool that makes it easier for companies to be transparent to their teams and customers. Consumers today want transparency, and COVID-19 safety is the perfect place to start incorporating those practices,” shared Liz Sheppard, CEO of LifeCity.
Other partners include the New Orleans Business Alliance and Restaurateur Dickie Brennan who hosted a free vaccination day for hospitality industry workers at his French Quarter restaurant, Tableau, with Ochsner Health Systems, another NOLA SAFE Partner.
“The health and safety of our employees and our guests has always been our top priority. We feel fortunate to have a partner like NOLA SAFE come to us with all the resources needed to co-host the recent vaccination event at Tableau. Together, we were able to vaccinate 106 of our own staff and fellow hospitality industry workers, making great strides toward getting our industry back on track, said Steve Pettus, Managing Partner, Dickie Brennan & Company.
Santé magazine spoke with Joey Worley, founder of New Orleans Hospitality SAFE, to learn more about the program.
Santé: How did NOLA SAFE come about?
Joey Worley (JW): The concept was created and launched in July of 2020. We saw an opportunity to simplify and connect the (sometimes confusing and complicated) COVID-19 safety message with the economic benefits of reopening the economy and developing confidence in both visitors to New Orleans and our workforce. In other words, by doing the right thing and keeping our guests and our community healthy, we as a hospitality industry have the ability to develop a brand of COVID-19 safety, which will benefit the entire economy by bringing guests and our workforce back safely. We sometimes say that NOLA SAFE is an economic development organization disguised as COVID-19 safety, and we certainly recognize that the two concepts are linked.
Santé: How will hospitality businesses benefit? And the community?
JW: Our community and our industry benefit most when we are united under a common goal and shared interests. The goal is simple: bring the New Orleans hospitality industry back in a way that resonates with all stakeholders. NOLA SAFE makes it simple to do this by creating a recognizable brand and message that COVID-19 safety is top of mind for our industry and community, and by helping New Orleans bring back visitors, and eventually larger group business and conventions that our economy is so dependent upon.
Santé: How many participants are there?
JW: We have 192 NOLA SAFE Partners on our website (www.nolahospitalitysafe.com) and over 38 companies registered on the NOLA SAFE badging platform.
Santé: What is the certification process and how long does it take?
JW: We designed the certification process to be easy for hospitality operators to verify they are, indeed, open for business and are operating with COVID-19 safety top-of-mind. Operators answer a series of about 20 questions that cover COVID-specific topics like cleanliness and sanitation, staff training, and guest communication. We ask that they upload documents or pictures to verify and support their answers, which adds an additional element of transparency, accountability, and confidence for both the workforce and potential customers.
Santé: What are some of the activities?
JW: In addition to periodic Educational Events, we have a robust social media presence that highlights our Partners and what they are doing to help New Orleans reopen safely and effectively. We also partnered with Ochsner Health System, the New Orleans Business Alliance, Dickie Brennan’s Tableau, and LifeCity to host a mass vaccination event directed at the hospitality workforce in New Orleans.
Santé: How are sponsors engaged beyond financial support
JW: We rely on our sponsors for feedback on our products and services and to help us communicate our message not only to the hospitality community but also to other industries. We know that in order to maintain good relationships with our community, it is important to keep our sponsors engaged as we continue to develop our brand and services.
Santé: What is/are the long-term goals for NOLA SAFE
JW: This is my favorite question. We hope to expand this concept into other markets and to grow our presence not only here in New Orleans and Louisiana but to other communities interested in building a similar brand of COVID-19 safety that will help stimulate their economies and get their workforces safely back on the job. The Love Your City badging concept that currently denotes COVID-19 safety has the ability to expand to denote other goals in other industries, such as education, equity, healthcare, and more.
For more information visit www.nolahospitalitysafe.com