Palmetto Priority, a program launched by Governor Henry McMaster on July 1, is exceeding expectations.
According to the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, there were 206,300 hotel, restaurant and foodservice jobs in South Carolina reported in June 2020, which equals about 10% of the total employment in the state. Hospitality industry jobs, however, are down by about 34% due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Palmetto Priority is helping get hospitality workers back on the job. One of the reasons Palmetto Priority was launched was because of a need for people to feel safe when they dine out; in turn, making them more likely to dine out more frequently.
Currently, 2,500 restaurants have made the Palmetto Priority commitment to making the safety and health of their employees and patrons a priority. Of those 2,500, approximately 500 are currently being processed and added to the Palmetto Priority website on a daily basis.
“Restaurateurs are tangibly demonstrating their strong commitment to providing a safe, healthy and enjoyable dining experience by participating in Palmetto Priority,” said John Durst, President and CEO of the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association. “This initiative is proving to be a significant factor in our industry’s resilience during these extremely challenging times.”
Consumers are urged to use the Palmetto Priority website to locate participating restaurants in their area. While this program is voluntary, only locations listed on the website have pledged their commitment. The search feature on the website is designed with a geofilter to sort results by distance or around certain geographical locations up to 25 miles from the search parameters chosen. While dining, consumers should express to a staff member or manager that they chose the restaurant because they are participating in the program.
Consumer feedback is important to the overall success of Palmetto Priority. Restaurant patrons have the opportunity to provide feedback using the form located at the bottom of the website.
As of July 24, we have received 149 valid submissions from 44 cities and towns throughout South Carolina. Of those submissions, 81% were positive, praising the restaurant for participating and/or highlighting their positive dining experience. More than 75% of the positive comments applauded restaurants for their sanitizing and cleaning efforts. On the other hand, 60% of the concerns related to face coverings and 59% related to social distancing.
As feedback is received, an SCRLA staff member follows up with both the individual who made the submission as well as the restaurant noted. If a diner expressed a concern related to Palmetto Priority, an SCRLA staff member reaches out to the restaurant regarding the issue posed.
Depending on the issue, guideline clarification, additional education resources and/or other pertinent resources may be offered. The majority of the concerns expressed to date are related to an employee or other guests not wearing personal protection equipment (PPE) properly or not wearing PPE at all.
Most restaurant operators contacted by the SCRLA have expressed appreciation for the feedback and constructive comments, as they afford an opportunity for the operators to review, and as necessary, adjust their procedures and practices.
“The program’s success highlights the industry’s commitment to hospitality and service,” said Duane Parrish, Director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism. “Quality dining is at the center of the vacation experience, and our industry is making sure they meet expectations for safety, too.”
If we receive a submission regarding a regulations violation, either with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) or the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), we direct the individual to file their complaint with the respective agency using their online complaint form.
About the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association
In its 75th year, the SCRLA represents more than 2,200 member companies and 210,000 employees across the state. Our mission is to promote, protect and educate the foodservice and lodging industries of our state and to ensure positive business growth for our members. The SCRLA strives to represent the best interests of its members on small business issues, hospitality and tourism concerns and towards the protection of South Carolina’s quality of life. Please visit SCRLA.org for more information.
About the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism
The South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism is a cabinet agency assigned to operate and manage South Carolina’s 47 state parks, brand-market the state as a preferred vacation destination and provide assistance to communities to develop recreation assets. More can be found at SCPRT.com.