Across the United States, more than 16,000 restaurants had permanently closed their doors as of July 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ABC News. The coronavirus has hit the restaurant industry and hospitality industry hard as many Americans are staying home and spending less money—many of them have lost their jobs, too, from New York City to South Carolina.
As a small business owner, you likely want to avoid closing your restaurant during this lockdown period, too. Whenever you end up hosting your restaurant reopening, you may want to consider innovating some while we are in COVID-19 quarantine and social distancing. Learn about some ways and get additional information on how you can keep innovating your restaurant post-lockdown.
1. Create a more eco-friendly space.
Since your restaurant is currently empty, but you are still employing your restaurant workers, right now is a great time to work on making any improvements to your restaurant space. If you can market your restaurant as eco-friendly on social media, that can be a big differentiator. Consider adding in new eco-friendly practices such as:
- Use biodegradable takeout containers. Plastic containers are not environmentally friendly, but other materials that are biodegradable will be. Instead of plastic, use paper products or bamboo boxes.
- Try to buy ingredients from local sources. Not only will your ingredients be fresher, but you will also be supporting other local businesses that are probably hurting right now too. You can also source your alcohol from local breweries and wineries to support the local beverage industry.
- Take the time to train your staff on eco-friendly practices. Let your staff know you will be implementing these procedures and encourage them to speak to customers about it, such as turning lights off when, not in use or not putting recyclable items in the trash can.
- Donate any unused and unopened food to local food banks. When the shutdown happened, you likely had a fully-stocked kitchen. Instead of letting non-perishables that were unused and unopened expire, take them to local food banks.
2. Train your staff on best practices for disease control and install social distance measures.
None of us know how long this COVID-19 lockdown will last or how long social distancing will be a recommended practice, but your restaurant will need to adapt to be compliant with CDC guidelines and to make sure that people do not come in close contact with each other. When your dining room does open back up, it may look quite different than what customers were used to seeing. Your restaurant employees and hospitality workers will be wearing face masks and potentially other personal protective equipment, sanitizing surfaces, cleaning door handles, and more.
Common areas like bar areas or hostess stands may need to be amended so that you do not have too many people gathered in one spot. This may require physical barriers or the removal of benches and chairs so that everyone is encouraged to keep a physical distance of six feet away from each other. Other things you should do as a restaurant owner include:
- Install hand sanitizer stations throughout the restaurant for customers and wait staff
- Encourage everyone to practice proper handwashing techniques
- Ask any infected person to avoid coming into the restaurant and consider giving wait staff sick leave
- Require everyone to wear a face mask or cloth face-covering unless they are eating or drinking at their table
- Create a cleaning schedule for staff members so they know how often to sanitize toilet seats, hostess stands, and other common areas
- Put up signs encouraging people to social distance and avoid close contact with others
- Make a checklist for the front of house and back of house staff so they know what steps to follow that are recommended by the CDC and local health department
- Ensure everyone is practicing food safety guidelines
- Speak with other business owners in the restaurant community to see what steps they are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19
If you have the space for it, you can also create an outdoor seating area that could permit you to safely serve more customers than in just the indoor dining room especially if there are capacity limits to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and reduce infection rates.
Make sure your restaurant workers and staff members are trained on the new strategies so that when the COVID-19 crisis lessens, your state's stay at home order or executive order is lifted, and you can reopen, the first few days will go smoothly. All small business owners know that happy customers will often provide great reviews.
3. Figure out the best online ordering system for your restaurant.
Until restaurants are allowed to fully reopen, you may need to make some online sales. While you may be allowed to have outdoor dining, takeout and delivery services will also benefit your restaurant. Customers can come to pick up their food after putting in an online order or you can deliver food to them for a small fee.
If a website is not already in your business plan, you may want to consider creating one so that customers can put in online orders at one of their favorite restaurants. This extra income could potentially help you retain most of the service workers on your payroll and might help you stay open during a trying time for the foodservice industry when so many other restaurant business owners have made the tough decision to shutter their doors forever.
To further boost sales, you could also add gift cards to your website. This gives people a chance to buy gift cards now and use them later when it is a more secure environment for diners.
No matter what happens during this COVID-19 lockdown, make sure your restaurant is shown in a good light to community members. Any bad press, especially on social media, could hurt your restaurant reopening. Following guidelines from the federal government, the World Health Organization, and the National Restaurant Association, and other local entities will help and they can all also be a great restaurant COVID resource.
If you need financial aid or financial assistance to help pay employees, you may be eligible for small business loans. Restaurant owners have a lot to think about and consider during this time and COVID-19 may cause many to completely change their business model before this is all said and done.