Lester serves a client at the Tim Hortons drive-through window. All Tim Hortons employees working the drive-through windows wear masks and gloves, and a plexiglass divider has been set up for added protection. Photo by Terry Farrell

SALUTE TO FRONTLINE WORKERS: Fast-food restaurant employees often the ‘forgotten’ frontline workers

The Comox Valley Record has produced a special supplement for its May 20, 2020 print publication, saluting our frontline workers. This is one of the feature articles.

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When it comes to frontline workers, one’s thoughts immediately turn to doctors, nurses, and first responders.

But there are others putting their well-being at risk every day for all of us – many of them doing so at, or near, minimum wage. Fast-food workers fall into that category.

Pass any McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, or A&W in the Comox Valley, and chances are there will be a lineup at the drive-through – likely a long lineup.

Staff at fast-food restaurants are often the “forgotten” frontline workers. But a person working a drive-through window at such an establishment likely comes into contact with more people than most.

“The drive-through window is the biggest point of contact for us,” said Comox Valley Tim Hortons franchisee Tracy Caissie, adding they have made several safety additions to protect their staff. “We have put barriers in place to reduce exposure as best we can for our team and guests. We have a plexiglass divider at the window, the team wears masks and gloves, and we are mindful as to how we hand the product out the window.”

Caissie said her outlets (Lerwick Road at Home Depot, and Ryan Road at Superstore) have gone through massive transformations to adapt to safety and protection standards introduced by the provincial and federal governments at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Our main concern is the health and safety of our team and our guests,” said Caissie. “We quickly implemented various safety measures such as installing plexiglass dividers, taking temperatures of our team, wearing masks and gloves. We have a stringent sanitizing schedule that covers three different levels, and is completed every 10 minutes, 30 minutes and once every 24 hours, and of course, frequent hand washing!”

The Tim Hortons ‘dine-in’ areas have been closed since March. Take-out and drive-through (where available) services remain available, and the company can now be accessed through Skip The Dishes.

Caissie said implementing the necessary changes was a challenge, but her staff has adapted well.

“I can’t say enough about how our wonderful team has been right from the beginning of all this change. They have been positive and committed to doing their best to ensure our guests are being taken care of in the safest and best way they can. We truly work alongside a fantastic group of people and for that, we are thankful for each and every one of them.”

The same can be said for the clientele.

“Our guests have been fantastic,” said Caissie. “We have felt so much support and appreciation from our guests. The team will receive comments of thanks and appreciation for being there every day for our guests. We get to see the generosity and compassion of our guests daily, whether it’s kind comments or someone paying for the stranger in the car behind them. We are truly lucky to live in the Comox Valley.”

Caissie said the entire experience has proven to be a time of bonding for her staff, and she has a great sense of pride regarding how her employees have responded.

“We want to say ‘thank you’ and how proud we are of our entire team. They have stepped up where needed, supported each other, and are working through very uncertain times with commitment, compassion, and humour.”

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