After what seems like a lifetime to many, COVID-19 restaurant restrictions have finally begun to loosen. This means that many restaurants are getting the green light to reopen their dining facilities.
A successful restaurant reopening requires careful planning and preparation. A step in the wrong direction could mean putting your employees and customers at risk. In order to ensure a safe, positive, and profitable dining experience, here are some tips and guidelines to follow when strategizing your restaurant reopening plan:
The first step is to contact your vendors. With temporary shortages and shipping delays, it is important to know whether everyone is able to fulfill your orders or if you’ll need to make alternative arrangements. We also suggest creating a contingency plan.
Then, you should review your menu and pricing. You may have adjusted your menu offerings and pricing when the pandemic first struck. These changes may have included limited menu items, family meal bundles, and meal kits. As your dining room reopens, you’ll need to determine how this affects your menu. Consider which new items and offers will you keep, and which items should be removed.
Next, you want to consider things like your seating arrangements and the layout of your dining room. Safety is your top consideration, so ensure tables are at least 6 feet apart from one another, and avoid large parties. Consider adding extra safety measures like sneeze guards or partitions, and remove options like buffets and self-service drink fountains, as these could spread harmful pathogens.
It’s important that you determine the maximum occupancy you can accept. Each locality has its own guidelines on the percentage occupancy that is acceptable as COVID-19 evolves. Usually when restaurants first reopen, it is with 25%-50% occupancy. Determine how you will monitor this, and appoint some of your employees to be in charge.
Also decide how you will follow social distancing while customers wait for a table. You do not want to have people close together in a small waiting area like you may have done in the past. Instead, have them first check in and wait in their cars, or spread customers out inside your space if you have the room. You may want to consider offering online reservations so that customers don’t have to venture inside to check in.
Prepare Your Staff
It will be critical to ensure proper coverage as you reopen your dining room. To start, adjust staff schedules to account for both on- and off-premises staff. This means including front-of-house staff again, while still keeping enough staff to fulfill online orders, curbside pickup, and delivery. Don’t get caught off guard if on-premises dining is slow at first. It will continue to grow as customers become more comfortable going out.
Keep in mind—life post COVID-19 will be a new normal. Staff responsibilities and tasks may change from what they were before, so you may need to reallocate labor to new areas. Servers may need to now also be in charge of packing up to-go orders, for example. You may even need to rehire.
Ensure that staff is properly trained on the new policies and procedures. They should know that safety is #1. ServeSafe offers training and certification that can help get everyone up to speed and properly educated. It is important for your staff to understand new expectations, and be willing to be flexible as the situation evolves.
It’s critical that your staff understands sick policies as well—if they have any illness, they should not come to work. Employee screening (including body temperature measurement) should be done upon shift arrival to ensure everyone is healthy and able to work safely.
Maximize Safety and Sanitation
Make sure you’re aware of and following CDC guidelines for both communities and restaurants as you reopen your dining rooms. In order to effectively ensure safety, make sure you are well-stocked on critical supplies like:
- Hand sanitizer
- Hand soap
- Cleaning solutions
Beyond that, you should reevaluate your normal cleaning routines to amp up the intensity. You should have a plan in place to clean every table, tray, payment processor, and menu after every use. Increase the cleaning frequency for commonly touched surfaces and bathrooms especially. Limit the number of customers that can enter between cleanings, and post signs for awareness and peace of mind. Increase the cleaning regimen for high-entry areas such as doors, hostess stands, and waiting areas as well. Make sure to use high-quality disinfectants that are either single use or are properly sanitized between uses.
Food safety is of utmost importance. Avoid buffets and grab-and-go stations to minimize cross-contamination. Make sure all serving tools and utensils are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. For to-go items, ensure packages are properly sealed.
Optimize Your Technology
As restaurants shift back to on-premises dining, know that off-premises dining will continue to be a top revenue driver. Although many customers miss on-premises dining and will quickly return to it, many will still be wary and continue ordering for pickup or delivery.
COVID-19 has caused consumers to grow accustomed to the convenience and ease of ordering food via restaurant websites and apps. We anticipate your customers will want to continue this, even as restrictions lift.
Because of this, a comprehensive restaurant management system is crucial. Restaurants need an integrated point of sale, online ordering, delivery, and loyalty program. The combination of these integral tools will be essential in helping you deliver a consistent, efficient, and amazing guest experience—no matter when, where, or how they interact with your restaurant.
As you reopen, it is crucial to your bottom line that you remain strategic and profitable. An integrated restaurant management system can help by:
- Allowing you to view and manage reports to see the percentage of on-premises vs. off-premises sales
- Monitoring menu items and promotions to see what is most profitable and how you should adjust to maximize profits
- Collecting and own all customer data to effectively market to your customers by sending them personalized offers and promotions
- Rewarding customers using your loyalty program regardless of how they place their order
Is your restaurant prepared for a post-pandemic world? As we navigate through COVID-19, HungerRush is here to provide you with the cutting-edge restaurant technology solutions required to find success in the toughest industry on earth. Check out our Restaurant Recovery Roadmap ebook or request a demo at HungerRush today to generate your restaurant reopening plan.