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A Running List of Ways Restaurants and Bars Can Keep Track of Contact Information

Strategies to make collecting customer’s names and phone numbers as painless as possible

UK, July 18, 2020. Customer notice at the entrance of a coffee shop explaining how they can use the Track and trace to ensure they are informed of coronavirus infection
A cafe in the United Kingdom uses a QR code at the entrance as a method for collecting contact information.
Red Carpet 2020/Shutterstock

Many Michigan restaurant and bar managers are currently scrambling to develop new systems that allow for collecting customer contact information.

Beginning on Monday, November 2, new statewide rules will go into effect requiring food businesses to take down customer’s names and phone numbers, as well as the day and time of their visit. Collecting that information should aid health officials in contact tracing, in the event that there’s an outbreak or a positive COVID-19 case linked to the business.

It’s a rule that’s already been in effect at other businesses around the state including tattoo parlors and hair salons, but many restaurant owners fear that some customers may react negatively to the request for personal data. Based on how many customers have responded to mask requirements, it seems likely that at least some guests will be resistant to the change. Let’s hope that doesn’t become a trend, as business owners are legally required to follow the new rules in order to provide service. They could face licensing problems and fines for failing to comply. Don’t ask businesses to break the rules.

But what’s the best way to implement this system? Eater asked local business owners as well as editors in cities and states that already require restaurants to take down contact information for suggestions on ways to record the information. Below is a list of methods for getting the contact info that’s required by law, with, hopefully, the least amount of grief and extra labor.

  • Print comment cards for every table explaining the regulation and asking people to fill in their information; include versions in multiple languages; offer to enter the card into a raffle for some sort of prize
  • Having an employee at the door recording customer information
  • Asking customers to sign into a book with their names, phone numbers, date, and time of their arrival (MDHHS strongly recommends businesses sanitize pens between uses for this method and find a method that keeps customers information more confidential.)
  • Provide servers with a clipboard and have them explain the policy and ask customers seated at tables to sign in with their contact information
  • Offer service by reservation-only; the system will automatically take down a patron’s name, number, and the date and time of their visit
  • Sell tickets to seated events and collect contact information through registration
  • Record names and phone numbers when processing credit cards
  • Create a QR code system where customers must input their contact information to access the restaurant menu

Have another creative idea for collecting customer’s names and numbers? Drop a note at detroit@eater.com.

Update, Wednesday, November 4, 10 a.m.: This story has been updated with more suggestions as well as links to the clarified rules from MDHHS.

Detroit Restaurant Owners Rush to Implement Systems for Recording Customer Contact Information [ED]
Amid Surge in COVID-19 Cases, Michigan Health Department Revises Rules for Bars and Restaurants [ED]
What Are Michigan’s COVID-19 Rules for Restaurants and Bars Right Now? [ED]
Michigan Clarifies Rules for Restaurants Collecting Customer Contact Information [ED]

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