These days, it seems like you can’t go more than a few minutes without seeing something, reading something, or watching something about COVID-19, the disease caused by a strain of coronavirus. The disease has affected every aspect of daily life and has left a lot uncertain for the future.
That’s especially true when it comes to business. A Business Insider report estimates that there are more than 25 million small businesses in the United States and a great number of them have all been affected by coronavirus, especially restaurants. Over the past several months, restaurants have been affected in a myriad of ways and have been operating differently.
- Some restaurants have been open with limited services, like delivery and takeout.
- Some have closed and then reopened with limited hours, limited seating and a limited menu.
- Some restaurants have closed altogether and may never open again.
If you’re a restaurant owner whose establishment has been affected by coronavirus, you may think a restaurant reopening at this stage of the game is impossible. While it is a little trickier in an age of COVID-19, a restaurant reopening doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. Whether your restaurant has been partially closed or fully closed, you can get it up and running again by being careful and staying safe.
Go Back to Basics
In order to have a successful restaurant reopening, no aspect of your restaurant can be overlooked. That’s especially true in a world of COVID-19.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is to make sure the premises of your restaurant are still operational. If it’s been a few months since you’ve been open, do a thorough inspection to make sure there’s nothing broken or malfunctioning. If you notice for example that the commercial garage doors on your premises are malfunctioning or the locks have been tampered with, it’s a good idea to call a locksmith to have everything fixed.
The next thing you need to do is clean your restaurant thoroughly. For your restaurant reopening to be successful, your place needs to be clean. This where the services of a commercial cleaning company can be quite useful. Professionals can come in and sanitize, disinfect and clean your place from top to bottom.
In the process, don’t forget to monitor for pests. The last thing you want is for critters and insects to disturb your reopening process.
If you’re looking to get your restaurant up and running in short order, you might consider eliminating or severely limiting any self-serve options such as salad bars and even drink stations.
Prepare For Social Distancing
You hear a lot these days about social distancing and the need to spread out to be safe. If you’re going to have a successful restaurant reopening, you and your employees need to embrace social distancing as the new normal.
Social distancing at a restaurant means limiting the number of customers that can dine at one time and reconfiguring your restaurant layout so that your customers can maintain at least six feet of distance between each other. Many restaurants have taken to marking six feet of distance with floor tape and putting up protective partitions at checkout counters. If your establishment offers outdoor dining, encourage that as it is easier to social distance.
Protect Your Customers
As you strategize for a successful restaurant reopening, you need to plan for ways to protect your customers. The more your customers feel safe, the more likely your business will pick up upon reopening.
So how can you protect customers? For starters, you need to post signs within your restaurant about stopping the spread of COVID-19 and you need to promote safety. That means requiring customers to wear masks when appropriate and also making hand sanitizer available.
Make use of single-use items and replace or remove high-use items such as tablecloths, different condiments and even menus.
Clean Clean Clean
You can never clean too much if you’re planning a restaurant reopening. The key is cleaning in a way that’s going to work for your restaurant. Take commercial kitchen cleaning for example. You need to develop a schedule for cleaning and disinfecting that’s going to get all your kitchen equipment sanitized and ready for use. The same goes for your food contact surfaces, high touch areas and common use areas like the bathroom or the checkout areas.
You also need to make sure that the cleaning products you’re using meet the right criteria and are properly stored. You also need to make sure your employees know how to properly use all the supplies. If you find that your business is really picking up after a while, increase your order to cleaning supplies so that you’ve always got some on hand.
While customer hygiene is important, your employees need to be sanitary too. They need to wash their hands frequently, wear gloves and are careful when it comes to handling food.
Plan For Reopening
Every restaurant owner wants their restaurant reopening to be successful. But in order to pull that off, you need to establish a timeline. You need to ask yourself when; as it when are you reopening?
Establishing a plan for reopening means keeping COVID-19 in mind, but it also means planning your regular day-to-day operations. What kind of inventory are you going to need? How much staff are you going to need to work in your restaurant? What does your reopening menu look like? How are you going to market to the public that your establishment is reopening?
Part of your reopening plan also involves coordinating with suppliers, distributors and providers of any services you need. For example, if you run a Mexican restaurant for example and you talk to Hispanic food distributors, you need to establish a schedule so that you can get the ingredients you need in a timely manner and also in a sanitary fashion.
Spend Time On The Menu
A restaurant reopening is the perfect time to rethink your menu. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to roll out your entire pre-COVID menu. If your place is going to be doing more carryout and delivery business, your menu might look smaller and more simple.
If you’re running a barbeque joint, for example, you might consider menu items that can be churned out on a BBQ grill easily and fast. A smaller menu means you can sling chicken, pulled pork, and other delicious menu items fast and it also means less prep time for your employees.
If you’re really looking to hook customers during your reopening, consider offering some combos. Customers love combos and sides that go with the main entrée are usually easier to make and less expensive. Combos also give customers something to look forward to, especially if you offer certain combos for lunch or dinner or even certain combos on certain days of the week.
Embrace a Diverse Revenue Stream
In many lines of business these days, embracing non-traditional revenue streams. Restaurants have to think creatively in a time of COVID-19 and yours is no different. In order to stay profitable, you might consider expanding your offerings to include alcohol delivery with your takeout menu and offering easy meal kits for customers to make tasty meals at home.
The most obvious move to take is to offer takeout, delivery, and curbside pick-up options. The fact is that some customers aren’t going to automatically feel comfortable dining in. By offering takeout options, they still get to enjoy their dining experience and enjoy your delicious offerings.
Market Your Reopening
Once you’ve cleaned and cleaned and redesigned your menu and gotten your restaurant ready for reopening, you need to let people know that it’s happening.
This is where social media can work to your advantage. If you’ve enlisted the services of a screen printing company for a new banner outside your restaurant, show the banner off with a photo on Instagram or Facebook. Remember, you want to wow your customers and get them excited about coming back to your establishment.
Before your restaurant reopening, update your place’s website and social media pages. This way customers have the most up-to-date information about your business hours, your new menu items and even your social distancing policies.
It’s easy for news to spread like wildfire on social media these days and you can really kick your restaurant reopening up another notch. If you’ve got a date set for your reopening, you can post pictures on social media with captions like “Coming Soon” or “The Countdown Begins.”
You can also use social media and your website to showcase any renovations you’re doing. If your restaurant is trying to be more eco-friendly and you’ve embraced solar energy for your business—perhaps with some brand-new solar panels—you can really show your customers that your place is committed to helping the environment, being clean and being safe.
Another way you can pull in customers is to offer deals for your reopening. Customers are always enticed by discounts and even buy-one-get-one-free deals, so offer them something to get them to order. It might be a half-off coupon for appetizers or dining-for-two lunch and dinner specials.
Do Some Final Checkups
Before your reopening date, go through everything one last time. If you see a lingering pest control issue, call commercial pest control services to remove any critters or insects who are stubbornly hanging around. If it’s been several months since you were open, doublecheck the foundation of the building and the condition of the roof. You don’t want to deal with a leaking roof once you’ve reopened and if you do have a leaking roof, get a roof contractor to patch it up.
You’ll also want to double-check all your safety procedures. You can’t be too careful when it comes to COVID-19. Make sure that your staff has the right PPE, your cleaning and sanitizing schedule is rock solid and you’ve got plenty of sanitizer for your customers. The more you do to keep your restaurant clean and your customers safe, the better off you’re going to be.
Help Your Employees
Before you reopen, you need to meet with your employees and thoroughly go over what your expectations are for them. If they’re handling food during the cooking process, they need to wash their hands frequently. If they’re serving food, perhaps they might need to wear gloves to carry food trays and to mask up when interacting with customers.
If there are certain things you don’t want your employees doing, you need to let them know what those things are. It might be something as simple as not handling the cash register with bare hands or handling money with bare hands or forgetting to wear a mask when it’s necessary. If you can have a clear, well-explained policy that your employees can follow, that will make it easier for customers to follow your dining rules. Rest assured that you can always call the police and have them escorted off the property if they raise a fuss. You can always leave them with the number of a good bail bonding company in case they want to try to break the law at your establishment again.
Helping your employees also means protecting them and helping them out when dealing with difficult customers. Even if your establishment rules are clearly posted and thoroughly explained, you’ll probably still have the occasional customer who wants to be difficult. When that happens, come to your employee’s aid and deal with the customer. If the customer is being belligerent, ask them to leave and get the authorities involved if things escalate too far.
Take a Minute to Celebrate
In these trying times, a restaurant reopening it’s always easy to do, but if your eatery has planned for a grand reopening, celebrate your success. There may be a few hiccups along the way, but you’ll be able to adjust and stick with what works. By reopening, you’re not only doing the community a service by offering plenty of tasty options, you’re also helping your employees by boosting morale and giving them the chance to get back to work.
By following safety procedures, taking some time to reevaluate every aspect of your business and putting together a good marketing plan, you can be back in business with a bang and you may be surprised at how many people come flocking for your food.