At the start of 2020 the Philadelphia region was in the midst of one of the biggest building booms in recent history – more than 2,100 permits issued for new construction in the city alone. All that came to a screeching halt on March 23rd when Governor Tom Wolf ordered the shutdown of all non-essential businesses due to COVID-19. Just days ago, Governor Wolf lifted that order with guidelines to permit each city and municipality to “safely” implement their own set of protocols. “One thing is clear, no matter what state you’re in, it won’t be business as usual as we get back to work,” said Stacey Lott, President of LOTT Restaurant Construction.
She says “safety first” has never had more meaning in construction and other industries after this unprecedented pandemic. Some new requirements for those working on a job site include: staggered start and break times; managed social distancing; face masks; regular handwashing; and much more cleaning.
“While it should have been easy, finding the necessary tools was a challenge. Masks and hand sanitizers are scarce, but no touch thermometers have been completely elusive. We are a fast-track construction firm and the social distance requirement has forced us to seriously refine our scheduling,” she explained. “Since we are limited in how much manpower is allowed on site at a time and we are used to stacking trades, but now we have to rethink how to get the maximum effect from fewer people while maintaining the same quality and timeline results.”
On a job site, safety and cleaning measures have always been and will remain a priority at LOTT, but the company has had to alter its "Super Command Centers” to include a few more items and communicative measures for its superintendents. Lott, one of the few women leaders in the male-dominated field is taking everything a step further by instituting fines for subcontractors who don’t comply.
“We’ve instituted an amendment to our safety policy that must be signed by all subcontractors to strictly enforce the new protocols. Failure to follow the site guidelines will result in a fine – and all fines will be donated to restaurant worker relief funds,” said Lott.
All subcontractors have always been required to clean up after their crew and for job site safety, but now there are added measures, such as wearing masks and performing temperature checks. One of LOTT’s administrative personnel, Renee Falter, has made masks during the stay-at-home order, but new safety protocol states the subcontractors arrive with them. “We will give the first mask for free, but subsequent masks cost $5, and all proceeds will be donated to COVID-19 relief funds,” said Falter. “We figure fines can be a hardship, so we will use the money to ease the hardships of others as redemption for noncompliance,” says Lott.
LOTT specializes in restaurant development and construction, from soup to nuts, and Stacey Lott admits it is scary to think about the damage social distancing and isolation has done and will do to the restaurant business, but she remains hopeful that owners will be able to find viable ways to reassure the public it will be safe to dine out and enjoy time with friends and family again.
“It is unfortunate that some establishments may not survive, but many will adapt, and we [LOTT] have some really creative ideas to help anyone with a vision to bring people together over food and drinks. We are not chefs, but we are masters of creating beautiful backdrops which create atmospheres to enhance dining experiences, and we’ll continue to do so. Nevertheless, construction is a stimulus to the economy, so when our economy gets back on track, construction is the indicator and people are going to want to celebrate. We get up early every day to build awesome spaces to achieve that. And no one will be happier than us to see that happen in the coming weeks.”
LOTT Restaurant Construction is a full-service construction management firm specializing in restaurant development and design. LOTT thrives on bringing complex projects to completion in record time and maintaining strict cost controls. The company has opened more than 400 restaurant locations in more than 15 states nationwide. To learn more, please visit http://www.restaurantsontime.com/.