Greeting customers with smiling eyes
In petrol station shops, you can usually find a quick meal, tobacco products and basic food items. Not so at the new Socar Premium petrol station shop in the mountain village of Samedan, where delicious local specialities await customers. A report on communication barriers caused by wearing masks, tips on disinfectant dispensers and innovative cleaning using granulate.
Fur coats, Rolex watches and luxury hotels – the lifestyle typically associated with St. Moritz. But there’s no sign of this in the neighbouring village of Samedan. Between skiing seasons, all is calm in this tranquil mountain village in Graubünden. Except in the Cho d’Punt commercial zone, where the local Pfister family of entrepreneurs is currently building a shopping centre with shops, restaurants and a petrol station in cooperation with Migros. The first Migros supermarket in the Engadin will soon open on this development too. The petrol station in front of the shopping centre has been open since the beginning of December 2020 and is managed by Cinzia Pfister as part of Auto Pfister AG. Opening during a partial lockdown was a challenge in itself.
Masks have become the new normal
During the partial lockdown in Switzerland, all restaurants were closed, grocery stores could only receive customers until 7 pm, and businesses could only be open with protective measures in place. These restrictions applied to Cinzia Pfister and her team as well – which is why the attractively furnished restaurant area at the back of the shop has remained blocked off and unused since its opening. The introduction of compulsory masks, on the other hand, was no problem: “Our employees have never known anything else since the shop was opened – masks are part of the new normal and have been fully accepted,” says Cinzia Pfister. However, in some situations, they can still pose a barrier to communication – for example, when there is a lot of background noise, and both hearing and facial expressions are obscured. Or when staff want to smile at customers. “In these situations, it’s important to smile with your eyes and use your eyes to express a friendly demeanour – this is a language that every customer understands and appreciates,” says Cinzia Pfister, emphasising her remarks by demonstrating herself.
Fresh sandwiches require a clean environment
When you enter through the petrol station’s sliding doors, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in a luxury delicatessen rather than a convenience store. Modern grey tones meet wooden elements in stylish round shapes for a warm, welcoming atmosphere. And the product range is just as extraordinary: “We don’t sell half-baked bread rolls or packaged sandwiches. Instead, we sell sandwiches that are prepared fresh every day using local ingredients, as well as culinary specialities from the local area, and small floral gifts from local florists,” says Cinzia Pfister, explaining the innovative concept. High quality demands impeccable hygiene – a principle that goes without saying for the petrol station’s eight employees.
Foam is the secret weapon against grease stains
Fresh bread is delivered from the local bakery every morning. This is then made into delicious caprese, ham or cheese sandwiches by the employees. The snack display is thoroughly cleaned inside and out each morning. The employees use a brand new cleaning method that is not yet widely known: foam applied to a microfibre cloth. The foam is created by mixing dry cleaning granulate (Wetrok Granusurf) with water in a bottle and shaking it. “I’m a fan of cleaning granulate because you can’t go wrong with mixing it: one sachet of granulate contains exactly the right amount for one bottle,” explains the petrol station’s operational manager, Michele Marcato. The foam is easier to distribute on the cloth than liquid detergent too: “When we used to use liquid detergent, we were using cloths that were far too wet, which made it much harder to remove stubborn grease stains from the glass. With the foam, there’s no need to rub the stains – one swipe and they’re gone,” reports the team leader of his positive experiences. The cleaning bottle, which is mixed in the morning, lasts all day – and the team keeps it handy at all times in case any fingerprints need to be cleaned off the glass surface.
Short distances to sanitising dispensers critical
Preparing sandwiches and coffee means employees are working with their hands, so maintaining strict hand hygiene is an absolute must. Wearing clean disposable gloves and regularly washing and sanitising hands are mandatory before handling any food. Cinzia Pfister understands the importance of hand hygiene: “The hand sanitiser dispensers need to be placed directly at the respective work station – short distances are KEY to thorough, lasting and disciplined hand hygiene.” That’s why there are four dispensers placed in vital locations around the small petrol station shop: by the coffee machine, the sandwich display, the sandwich-making station and in the staff and customer toilets. However, disciplined disinfection not only depends on where dispensers are placed, but the disinfectant in them: “Our dispensers contain AHD 2000, a special moisturising and replenishing disinfectant. This prevents the employees from getting dry, chapped hands and encourages them to use the dispensers more often,” says Cinzia Pfister. The soaps and hand wash lotions also use a mild, skin-friendly solution.
Automated dispensers prevent additional contamination points
There is a hand sanitiser in the customer area too – prominently placed at the entrance with an automatic dispensing function. “We decided on an automated, contactless dispenser from ingo-man to prevent any unnecessary touch points, such as a lever. Customers need only hold their hands under the dispenser and it dispenses the right quantity for them to disinfect their hands,” says Cinzia Pfister. With a smile, she adds: “For many customers, it’s almost too modern – they still look for a lever!” A dirt-trapping mat beneath the disinfectant dispenser protects the beautiful new floor from stains.
Mechanical floor cleaning despite densely furnished floors
The porcelain stoneware flooring is tough, scratch-proof and therefore ideal for mechanical floor cleaning. This was an important point for Cinzia Pfister: “It takes much less time to clean the floor with the machine than if it had to be scrubbed by hand,” she explains. The floor is cleaned every evening using the agile Discomatic Mambo scrubber-dryer. The tight spots under restaurant tables or in the toilet facilities are cleaned by hand using a mop and flat mop. “The floor cleaning machine gets the job done quickly and the floor dries in an instant. The cleaning results are perfect – so the time between closing and finishing work is never too long,” says Michele Marcato with a wink.
New method of toilet cleaning
During the coronavirus pandemic in particular, it is important that the petrol station team can depend on effective cleaning products. However, there isn’t much space for storage. Cinzia Pfister has therefore opted for the space-saving, water-free cleaning product Granubowl from the Wetrok granulate range for cleaning the toilets. All employees need to clean the toilet is a small sachet of granulate. They pour the granulate into the toilet bowl, distribute it with the toilet brush and leave it for a moment to take effect. If needed, they scrub the toilet bowl some more with the brush. Unlike liquid detergent, the granulate unleashes its superpowers against limescale and dirt exactly where it’s needed – without trickling down the bowl.
“I love the easy application of the granulate, the compact storage size and the cleaning results – and, of course, the fact that it’s biodegradable,” reveals Cinzia Pfister. A Tork paper towel dispenser with disposable towels allows customers to dry their hands when leaving the toilets. “Disposable towels are indispensable for maximum hygiene – and not just during the pandemic,” explains the petrol station manager.
Cinzia Pfister and her employees are doing everything they can to create a safe shopping environment – and yet, the tables in the restaurant will have to remain empty for the foreseeable future. Hopefully the epidemiological situation will improve before long, so that customers can enjoy delicious local specialities in the cosy, sparkling-clean bistro area.
Five questions for Cinzia Pfister, Manager of Auto Pfister AG & the Socar petrol station, Samedan
“If you replace an old cleaning process with a newer, simpler version, it has a positive effect on employee motivation.”
- Ms. Pfister, is there a best-seller in your petrol station shop?
Petrol (laughs). But there are lots of best-sellers in the food section too – depending on the season and time of day. At lunch time, it’s our fresh sandwiches from the snack display. In the winter, screen wash sells very well. Apparently, it’s popular among thieves too: last week, a car stopped outside and the driver took a bottle of screen wash before driving off without paying.
- What are the challenges of cleaning and maintaining hygiene in a petrol station shop?
We have a lot of people coming and going every day. In other words: all kinds of dirt gets dragged into the store within a very short time. At the moment, we are battling with the traces of gritting salt. The salt contains a substance that leaves stubborn stains on the floor. Construction dust is a big issue as well. This gets dragged in by the workers from the adjacent shopping centre, which is still under construction. But we manage to remove all the salt stains and construction dust with the Wetrok Mambo scrubber-dryer and the Wetrok Redur cleaning product. Good hand hygiene is also a top priority, as we make all our sandwiches fresh every day. That’s why we’ve placed hand sanitiser dispensers in all the preparation areas – within very easy reach.
- What made you decide on Wetrok cleaning and hygiene solutions?
Whether it’s the bread for our sandwiches, which we buy from the local village bakery, the Graubünden-style walnut cake in our speciality food section, or the flower bouquets we sell – we are all about local products. The same applies to cleaning. We wanted a supplier who manufactures their products in Switzerland, who can be on site immediately in the event of a problem, and who can offer us all the cleaning products and disinfectants we need from a single source – Wetrok meets all these criteria. In addition, a locally based customer advisor provided comprehensive instruction on how to best use the cleaning products. That was very well received by our employees. Our philosophy here at Auto Pfister AG is “Quality knows no compromise” – a perfect match for Wetrok’s “Hygiene without compromise,” don’t you think?
- You clean your surfaces and sanitary facilities with granulate instead of liquid detergent. What made you opt for this new cleaning method?
Lots of aspects of working with liquid detergents are tiresome: they are often over-dosed, are unwieldy and take up too much storage space. Granulate makes everything much simpler: we receive individually packaged sachets of granulate – pre-dosed and no bigger than a sugar packet. In tight spaces like our small storage room, that is a huge advantage. There is only one rule to follow when using the product: one sachet equals one application (e.g. one toilet bowl). All employees need to do is mix the granulate with water – water that doesn’t need to be transported halfway around the globe in the form of a liquid cleaning product.
- How did your employees react to the new cleaning method?
Very well! You see, people from Graubünden are more open-minded than you think (laughs)! I’m convinced that the use of new processes and technologies enriches the workday and even has a positive effect on employee motivation. If the results are good too – like the outstanding results we get from the cleaning granulate – then employees are fully “on board”, and not only use the new method conscientiously, but with pleasure.